by Jack Rosebro
|Ford Fusion Hybrid. Click to enlarge.|
Ford introduced its new-generation mid-size sedans, the 2010 Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan vehicles, with both conventional and hybrid powertrains, at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The hybrid versions of the Fusion and Milan are Ford Motor Company’s first mid-size, traditionally styled hybrid sedans to enter the marketplace, following the late Honda Accord hybrid as well as the current Chevrolet Malibu, Toyota Camry, and Saturn Aura hybrids.
Details on Ford’s new hybrid powertrain, elements of which are also used in the 2009-up Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner compact SUV hybrids, were initially revealed at the 2008 SAE Hybrid Symposium by Global Core Engineer Sherif Markaby (earlier post). Further details on both the hybrid and conventional Fusion and Milan powertrains were released by Ford last month (earlier post).
The Fusion/Milan hybrid’s driver information display features eco-driving encouragements in the form of SmartGauge with EcoGuide, which uses two high-resolution color liquid crystal display (LCD) screens on either side of an analog speedometer, which can be configured to show four different levels of information: Inform, Enlighten, Engage, and Empower. The Smartgauge displays “efficiency leaves” and vines to reward customers for efficient driving. (Earlier post.)
Ford also announced that the Fusion/Milan in-car SYNC communication and entertainment system, which was developed jointly by Ford and Microsoft, will periodically gather diagnostic information from the vehicle’s powertrain control modules and send the data to Ford in the form of a Vehicle Health Report (VHR) via an 800 number that is automatically dialed using the customer’s paired and operable mobile phone.
Many automakers package software into their powertrain networks that allows technicians and engineers to query the network and run an automated health check of the system by connecting proprietary diagnostic devices. However, Ford’s new Vehicle Health Reports will, in theory, allow the company to develop powertrain software updates faster and more accurately, using data collected from a much larger vehicle population than is sampled today.
The Fusion/Milan health reports represent a rare example of diagnostics-related telematics, which was once predicted to rapidly spread throughout the automotive industry. Most of today’s telematics applications are related to safety and convenience.
During the vehicle introductions, Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields announced that Ford would now update the styling of all of its vehicles every three years, and that “cars and crossovers” now represent the majority of Ford sales, as compared to being a minority sector a few years ago.
Ford expects the new vehicles to be in showrooms by spring 2009.