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Ford puts the pedal down on performance … but not with electric drive technology right now

The new Ford GT on display in the Ford stand at NAIAS. Click to enlarge.

In December, Ford President and CEO Mark Fields said Ford would focus on five key areas of innovation, one of them being performance. He said that more than 12 new performance vehicles would be introduced through 2020. (Earlier post.) At the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit this week, Ford delivered first proof of that focus with the reveal of the new Ford GT carbon-fiber supercar, as well as the new F-150 Raptor based on the new aluminum F-150 and the Shelby GT350R Mustang.

The stunning Ford GT—which received the EyesOn Design Award at NAIAS for best production vehicle—serves as a technology showcase for top EcoBoost engine performance, aerodynamics and lightweight carbon fiber construction. Beginning production late next year, the GT will the road in select global markets in honor of the 50th anniversary of Ford GT race cars placing 1-2-3 at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, unlike today’s hybrid drive Le Mans racers, or the new Acura NSX hybrid supercar, also revealed at NAIAS (earlier post), the GT—nor any of the other Ford performance vehicles unveiled at NAIAS—makes no use of electric drive technology.

Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development, explained that Ford is focusing very heavily on weight reduction—and not just with the performance vehicles, the aluminum F-150 being a key proof point.

Nair said that while Ford feels it is “very well established” currently with hybrid and electric drive technology in the C-MAX, Fusion and Focus EV, the systems are still too heavy.

One of the reasons we didn’t go the hybrid route with some of the products you saw today was efficiency in terms of weight. We are real focused on weight reduction. It’s not just fuel efficiency, not just power efficiency, but it is weight efficiency as well.

—Raj Nair

Ford’s electric drive vehicle sales
Ford has been selling hybrids and, later plug-ins, since 2004. After introducing and then removing several models, the company since 2013 has currently settled on the Fusion hybrid and plug-in hybrid (Energi); the C-MAX hybrid and plug-in hybrid; the Lincoln MKZ; and the Focus Electric.
In calendar year 2013, Ford sold 86,038 hybrids (conventional and plug-in) and 1,738 Focus EVs, representing 3.5% of its total 2,493,918 vehicle sales.
In calendar year 2014, Ford sold 84,583 hybrids and 1,964 EVs for 3.5% of the total 2,480,942 vehicles sold during the year.
The business case for performance. Ford sees performance as good business. Sales of performance vehicles are up 70% in the US since 2009, Nair said. High performance vehicles draw customers that in general are younger and better educated.

Nair said that more than 65% of Ford ST customers come from outside the Ford brand. Millenials purchase ST vehicles at twice the rate of the rest of Ford brands, and performance vehicles attract more millenials than the rest of the Ford vehicle base.

Fifty percent of Fiesta ST buyers are under the age of 35, and 30% of those have a household income of $100,000 or more.

The investment in performance also allows the company to pilot advanced technologies and support their flow through into mainstream products.

Our business-based investment in performance is to serve a larger and much more important goal: to bring innovation throughout. Certainly performance is our passion, but it is also one of the most effective catalysts for ingenuity.

—Raj Nair

Ford GT

The all-new GT supercar features rear-wheel drive, a mid-mounted engine, and a sleek, aerodynamic, two-door coupe body shell. It is propelled by the most powerful EcoBoost production engine yet—a next-generation twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 producing more than 600 horsepower (447 kW).


The GT makes extensive use of lightweight materials, including carbon fiber and aluminum, enabling outstanding acceleration and handling with improved efficiency.

Ford said that its commitment to and capability in delivering technologies typically offered only in elite vehicles is evident in the GT. These include advanced active aerodynamics, such as a deployable rear spoiler, and a number of material and technology innovations.

GT includes innovations and technologies that can be applied broadly across Ford’s future product portfolio—another proof point that Ford continues raising the performance bar while ultimately improving vehicles for all of our customers.

—Raj Nair

EcoBoost. Ford’s turbocharged, direct-injection EcoBoost technology is available in every new Ford car, utility and light-duty pickup in North America beginning this year. EcoBoost engines also power a growing number of Ford performance models, including the new Mustang, the just-announced F-150 Raptor, as well as Fiesta ST and Focus ST.

Based on the same race-proven engine architecture serving Ford’s IMSA Daytona Prototype endurance racing efforts, the next-generation twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 in the GT features a wide powerband with excellent time-to-torque characteristics, Ford said.

Ford’s twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 raced to three wins in its first season of the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship in 2014, including a win in the 12 Hours of Sebring, along with seven podiums over more than 15,000 endurance racing miles.

The GT features an all-new, port/direct dual fuel-injection setup to improve engine response, plus a low-friction roller-finger-follower valvetrain. The twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 will be paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle for near-instantaneous gear changes and driver control.

Aerodynamics. Aerodynamic efficiency is at the heart of the GT design, actively reducing drag while aiding downforce and stability. From its optimum tear-drop shape to its aircraft-inspired fuselage and visibility-enhancing curved windshield, every slope and shape is designed to minimize drag and optimize downforce.

Although each surface on the GT is functionally crafted to manage airflow, it also features fully active aerodynamic components to improve braking, handling and stability.

An active rear spoiler is keyed to both speed and driver input, reactively deploying and adjusting its height and/or pitch angle depending on conditions.


Design. The advanced chassis is suspended by an active racing-style torsion bar and pushrod suspension, with adjustable ride height. The 20-inch wheels are shod with Michelin Pilot Super Sport Cup 2 tires featuring a unique compound and structure designed specifically for the Ford GT. Multi-spoke wheels encircle carbon-ceramic brake discs at all four corners.

The two-seat cockpit is accessed by upward-swinging doors, and features driver and passenger seats integrated directly into the carbon fiber passenger cell. This configuration significantly reduces seating hardware and weight, and provides a consistent and direct sensory connection to the chassis. The fixed seating is combined with adjustable pedals and steering column to accommodate a very wide range of driver statures.

An F1-style steering wheel integrates all necessary driver controls, creating a stalkless steering column that allows uncluttered access to the transmission paddle-shift controls. A fully digital and configurable instrument cluster provides a wealth of driver-focused data. The display is configurable for multiple driving environments and different driving modes.

New F-150 Raptor; new EcoBoost, 10-speed transmission

Ford reengineered the new F-150 Raptor, the top high-performance off-road pickup in the company’s lineup, to make it more efficient. The all-new Raptor starts with a purpose-built frame that is the strongest in the F-150 lineup, featuring more high-strength steel than the outgoing Raptor.


Forged from high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy that helps save more than 500 pounds (227 kg) of weight, Raptor’s exterior design is inspired by Ford’s performance heritage in off-road racing that includes Best in the Desert, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series and the Baja 1000.

Raptor is 6 inches wider than the standard F-150 for improved stability off-road. The all-new Raptor also features its first dual exhaust and new 17-inch wheels with next-generation BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 tires specifically designed for off-road performance.

Raptor is powered by Ford’s new, second-generation 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that produces more power with greater efficiency than the current 6.2-liter V8, which is rated at 411 horsepower (306 kW) and 434 lb-ft (588 N·m) of torque.

The high-output 3.5-liter EcoBoost is a Raptor exclusive in the F-150 lineup. It will be paired with an all-new 10-speed transmission for improved efficiency.

An all-new four-wheel-drive, torque-on-demand transfer case, with an advanced, easier-to-use version of off-road mode driver-assist technology, further improves Raptor’s trail performance.

Raptor’s new transfer case, which manages power distribution between the front and rear wheels, combines the best attributes of clutch-driven, on-demand all-wheel drive with durable, mechanical-locking four-wheel drive.

Raptor’s leading off-road mode driving technology has evolved into an all-new Terrain Management System that enables the driver to select modes to optimize driving dynamics to environmental conditions – from snow to mud, sand and more.

The new Raptor features calibration changes to its powertrain, driveline, traction control, ABS and AdvanceTrac stability control for optimal performance. There are six preset modes for the truck depending on terrain and driving conditions:

  • Normal mode for everyday driving
  • Street mode for higher-performance, on-road driving
  • Weather mode for rain, snow or ice
  • Mud and sand mode for muddy and sandy trails and terrain
  • Baja mode for high-speed desert running
  • Rock mode for low-speed rock crawling

An available Torsen front differential increases off-road capability further. The system increases grip significantly for the front end of the truck and allows it to pull itself over obstacles and up steep grades, even when traction is split between the front tires.

F-150 Raptor comes standard with new FOX Racing Shox with custom internal bypass technology that works to damp and stiffen suspension travel over rough terrain to help prevent the truck from bottoming out.

Front and rear shock canisters have grown from 2.5 inches to 3 inches in diameter for improved performance. They feature more suspension travel than the current Raptor’s 11.2 inches at the front and 12 inches at the rear.

The all-new Raptor will be built at Dearborn Truck Plant, and goes on sale fall 2016.

Shelby GT350R Mustang

Ford called the newly unveiled Shelby GT350R Mustang the most track-ready road-going production Mustang ever built. Arriving later this year, The new Shelby GT350R has been designed and engineered in the spirit of the original 1965 Shelby GT350R, delivering never-before-seen track capability from a Mustang due to innovations in aerodynamics, chassis engineering and light-weighting.


The car features the first-ever production V8 from Ford with a flat-plane crankshaft—the most powerful naturally aspirated engine Ford has ever produced—plus a specially tuned suspension. It is fitted with revised spring rates and antiroll bars, lower ride height, unique track-tuned alignment settings, revised bushings and jounce bumpers, cross-axis ball joints in the front suspension, and revised calibration controlling the MagneRide dampers.

Lightweight carbon fiber wheels are standard on Shelby GT350R, making Ford the first major automaker to introduce this innovative wheel technology as standard equipment.

Carbon fiber wheels—so far offered on only a handful of exotic supercars—will shave critical unsprung weight and reduce rolling inertia. The 19x11-inch front and 19x11.5-inch rear wheels provide approximately 13 pounds of unsprung weight reduction per wheel and offer higher levels of stiffness than equivalent aluminum wheels.

The lightweight wheels will be shod in Michelin’s top-shelf Pilot Sport Cup 2 high-performance tires with rubber compound and a construction unique to Shelby GT350R. This combination of incredibly stiff and light wheels with bespoke tires offers customers exceptional steering feel and levels of performance.

Weight reduction in pursuit of performance. Ford engineers delivered against aggressive targets for weight reduction on the Shelby GT350R. If a part did not make the car faster around a road course, it was considered for deletion.

Items removed include air conditioning, the stereo system, rear seats, trunk floorboard and carpet, backup camera and emergency tire sealer and inflator. Exhaust resonators also have been removed for weight savings with the benefit of creating a sharper exhaust tone.

Shelby GT350R is more than 130 pounds (59 kg) lighter than the Shelby GT350 Track Pack model, which has proven its durability in multiple 24-hour racetrack tests.

Shelby GT350R has been optimized for aerodynamic excellence. Details including the hood vent for heat extraction and lift reduction, underbody belly pans front and rear, an aggressive diffuser, vented wheel wells and turbulence-reducing fender vents, wheel air curtains and side skirts all remain on Shelby GT350R, but the car’s downforce capability has been increased.

Revisions to the front splitter maximize downforce, while an all-new high-efficiency carbon fiber rear wing has been added in anticipation of competition. The wing moves the vehicle’s center of pressure rearward while improving downforce and lift balance—ideal for high-speed track work.

The new 5.2-liter dual-overhead-cam V8 engine is the first production V8 from Ford with a flat-plane crankshaft—an architecture typically found only in racing applications or exotic European sports cars.

Unlike traditional V8s, in which the connecting rods are attached to the crankshaft at 90-degree intervals, the flat-plane design evenly spaces all crank pins at 180-degree intervals to optimize high-speed engine breathing. It is the most powerful naturally aspirated production Ford engine ever, with more than 500 horsepower (373 kW) and more than 400 lb-ft (542 N·m) of torque.

An air-to-oil engine oil cooler typically found only on race cars maintains engine temperatures under the most severe conditions, as does a standard cooler for the six-speed manual transmission.

A Ford-tuned limited-slip Torsen differential with 3.73 axle ratio is optimized for cornering grip and straight-line traction, while an electronically modulated rear-mounted air-to-oil differential cooler maintains ideal temperatures during track driving.

The limited-production Shelby GT350R will be available in the United States and Canada later this year.



Chevy comes out with a High Tech Volt, and Ford's got nothing.


Any day now Ford will be out with their "Forcess," a 205 mile range BEV, 5 miles more than Chevy's Bolt, made out of rejected plastic supermarket bags and financed by money from selling their Exxon stock. They are going all green.

A missed opportunity. Porsche decided to take the hybrid challenge and produced a car that is not only the best performing street-legal car ever made, but capable of zero emissions operation back and forth to work, or the club, etc. Four wheel electronically controlled torque vectoring. It corners like no other car without the technology can.

Ford, if you're going to show what can be done, don't settle for second best.

Build a car that can bust chops, but that doesn't have to apologize for killing the planet.


I liked the CMAX, but not the MPG mess.

This may be off point, but does anyone follow and have they posted any new articles the past ten days?


I think these cars do bust chops.

Since the Porsche 918 costs $900,000 and gas is below $2/g, I don't think of the 918 as a real car, while (at a rumored $200,000) the Ford GT is real (well, for for a few anyway).

And Ford is already near the lead in the fading, EV arena with 86,547 hybrid/EV yearly sales.


Check out:

The Ford family members make the right kind of comments, but the CEO is completely ignoring them.

TT, the price of gas isn't the issue. Especially if you're shelling out $845,000 for a car.

The cost of gas is the issue. Which we all pay even if you're the one burning it.

Athsma, COPD, cancer. Always expensive.


Ford is practically DEAD LAST,
The Volt and the BOLT blows away what they sell,
which they haven't updated in 3 Years.

No, what you're looking at at Ford is Mismanagement.


Ford like every other serious automaker has to start with a niche market the work toward the global market.

ABS, Traction control, everything slowly grows over time...

Performance /racing vehicles are often the proving ground for a technology. Work out the kinks on a few dozen/thousand cars then move into the hundreds of thousands.(there are plenty of neat things, I believe its called KERs basically braking recovery, and a turbine to recover energy from exhaust gas).

These vehicles are mainly showcasing carbon fiber processes, wheels and body panels.

There are rumors of ford making a hybrid F150. People do realize that Ford has to have OEMs make nearly everything on the car right? That takes time and lots of collaboration, they usually start 10 years prior to a cars release date.

The biggest hindrance to many new technologies are safety concerns, both by the company and any governing body involved. Close runners up would be availability reliability, and integration

I think the Bolt is the best strictly EV offering so far in the price range. I think it would be great for those who dwell in the suburbs.

I hope it sells well, I hope Chevy makes this work. I can see this being the first EV to start making a dent in ICE vehicles. I am also happy with how the volt is doing. I wish Ford and other makers would offer similar driving experiences, something that can run EV 70%+, and can go across country could be the single car solution many are looking for.

I am looking forward to Ford, Nissan, and any other manufactures response to the Bolt/Volt/Model S. Competition is a beautiful thing.

I'm surprised there isn't more EV startups like Tesla since its so easy to manufacture great cars.


The price of gas IS the issue. Especially if you're NOT shelling out $845,000 for a car; which virtually no one is.

The influences of the automobile on the rates of Asthma, COPD, cancer and etc are easily overemphasized, along with the benefits of the EV fleet in their reduction.

But we DO all pay for the ineffective fleet of EVs that us geeks find interesting and the kindergarten teachers think are fiscally sound and the technically unsophisticated think will become affordable simply by making them mandatory.

TT, your statement ignores the well documented fact that the single largest contributor to air pollution is transportation.

Zero emissions vehicles are technologically possible and affordable now. Zero emissions fuels sources are available and price competitive now.

What do you not find fiscally sound about a $199 per month car that requires virtually no maintenance and whose fuel cost is $1 per gallon equivalent?

The assertion that EVs are expensive is out of date and simply wrong.

Easy to dismiss the cost of Asthma, COPD and cancer if you're not the one who's got it, Bub.

TT> fading EV arena

You're apparently not reading the sales reports. EVs continue strong sales growth.

BMW's head of sales and marketing, speaking at the DLD-15 conference in Munich yesterday said:

“The legislative framework in the U.S. and Europe, China and Japan is clear, and it’s not going to change. The advent of zero-emission cars is coming, so our strategy remains on that track.”

There's a really good reason that "legislative framework" is in place. Time to give the environmental and health science another look, TT.


Easy to dismiss the fact that you need others to help in the purchase of an EV if you are the recipient.

You're apparently relying on the sales brochures.

EV sales were sagging - even before gas prices dropped.

Even BMW's head of sales and marketing, speaking at the DLD-15 conference in Munich said: "The advent of zero-emission cars is coming".

Not here, not now, not today, not tomorrow, "coming".

And knock of the “Bub” stuff.

TT, do you have any verifiable data sources to support your theory of sagging EV sales?

Should we compare the $4.9 billion per year petroleum fuel subsidies to the US$2.4 billion for zero emission vehicles?

US Fossil Fuel Subsidies:

OECD-IEA Fossil Fuel Subsidies:

Those are just the tax related subsidies. A 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences claims that burning fossil fuels results in about $120 billion per year in health-related costs.

None of that even touches on the military spending subsidies, which reach into the hundreds of billions per year, at least.

When BMW's Global Head of Sales and Marketing, Ian Robertson said "...The advent of zero-emission cars is coming..." he was talking about 100% of automobiles being zero emission.

As of September 2014, 600,000 Electric Vehicles had been sold in the world, led by 260,000 in the United States.

Maybe you missed that headline, Tom.

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