Happy Anniversary to the Lincoln Navigator

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Stephan Franklin, Auto Show Global

     This year we celebrate the release of the Lincoln Navigator. Heralded as the largest luxury SUV at its debut, it sent Cadillac into a design tail spin just to rebadge a GMC Yukon Denali. Of course, Cadillac claims the Escalade was designed in a under 10 months, but anybody with good design sense could see that GM and Cadillac clearly were caught with their pants down and was forced to rebadge a GMC.

     At the time, the Lincoln Navigator was released, I was working for Ford. In 2000, GM design had an opportunity to redesign the Escalade, and then I was working for GM in Cadillac. All I can say is that product cycle for the Cadillac was the beginning of the of the end of the large luxury segment dominance of Lincoln and the Navigator.
     Ford spent so much money structural architecture and sheet metal sharing between the Lincoln Navigator, Ford Expedition, and F-series pick-ups, the Navigator began to grow long in the tooth. Ford began to place resources in other truck programs such as the Ford Excursion, F-350 series, Explorers, Sport-Tracs because they were proving to be profit builders. In the meantime, General Motors was creating a very strong iconic product portfolio that would be one of the face of Cadillac. General Motors was focusing on brand identity and product placement among its crowded and sometimes redundant portfolio, but Cadillac was coming in on its own terms. In the meantime, Ford was looking at putting products in every incremental segment while trying to create new ones, all at the whim of marketing, while slowly and unintentionally, letting Lincoln slip away.
     In 2002, the all-new Cadillac Escalade debuted, and literally snatched the luxury full size SUV crown from Lincoln. It was weird watching it all unfold. I had worked on the new Escalade and the old Navigator, and I knew Ford’s product cycle for the Navigator was weak, even with the minor enhancements, it wasn’t going to be enough to keep Cadillac from coming at Lincoln. Furthermore, Cadillac had a whole new portfolio of products to back up the brand, and Lincoln was losing its footing fast.
     Fast forward. hip-hop music, celebrity influencers, and athlete endorsements favored Cadillac. Virtually reference came to benefit Cadillac and passively promoted Cadillac as the premiere brand in the eyes of the customers. Lincoln’s mid-cycle enhancements could not keep up with the new updates from Cadillac. The Lincoln Navigator had always looked heavy and over-bodied, while the Cadillac Escalade was getting more and more athletic looking. The Navigator’s front ends kept getting uglier with more chrome and bars as Lincoln was searching for its new identity. Interior enhancements didn’t pacify the dated exterior. Design management shake-ups, and even recruiting and hiring former Cadillac design management could not resuscitate Lincoln. For almost 20 years Cadillac has dominated the large luxury SUV market.
     Next year may be different. Lincoln has changed its branding strategy which has become popular among car enthusiasts. With the return of the Continental, Lincoln is finally beginning to make sure the product line looks consistent. The Lincoln Motor Company looks as though it is poised for a hostile takeover with the new Navigator. Let’s hope the 20th anniversary leads to 20 more years of fierce competition between Cadillac and Lincoln once again.

Ford Bronco and the Ford Ranger

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by Stephan Franklin, Auto Show Global

The word on the street, or a slip of the executive tongue, is that Ford is bringing back the Ford Ranger and the Ford Bronco nameplates. This is going to be fun. Since GM, Toyota, Nissan, and Honda have been enjoying the mid-size pick-up segment, Ford may turn the tables. I’m guessing that we will be seeing the debut in Detroit next January. Because the Ford Ranger is being sold globally, we have an idea of the size, and the engine configuration, think “Eco-Boost”. The Ford Bronco will be a bigger surprise and fill in a gap left by front wheel drive crossovers and eco-SUV’s. Ford had been talking about the reviving the Bronco nameplate for years showing different concept for years. Many internal design proposals were done, and it was a matter of time before the powers that be, probably marketing, gave the green light. I can’t wait to see what the Ford is going to show us next year. I wonder if they will debut the Bronco in white?

First Impression, 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

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The updated Ford f-150 Raptor is the ultimate high performance off-road pickup that is redefining performance and efficiency. Ford Motor Company announced horsepower and torque ratings for the all-new 2017 F-150 Raptor. Equipped with the all-new 3.5-liter twin-turbo high-output Eco Boost® engine, the Raptor pumps out 510 lb.-ft. of torque and 450 horsepower while mated to an all-new Ford-built 10-speed transmission and exclusive transfer case – and managed by a six-mode Terrain Management System™…all for under $50,000

Ford has seemingly mastered the balance between vehicle weight and torque with additional horsepower with the Eco Boost® system. With a six mode Terrain Management System and torque on demand transfer case, motoring though all types of on and off-road challenges. Improvements to the 3.5-liter, twin-turbo, Eco Boost and the addition of a 10-speed gearbox features Auto Start-Stop and an integrated electric pump that will improve driving efficiency. Raptor’s all-new adaptive shift monitors more than a dozen powertrain and driver control signals in real time – ensuring the right gear at the right time for an engaging driving experience, which includes; normal, sport, weather, mud/sand, rock/crawl and Baja modes. In addition, a high-speed, one-way clutch allows for non-sequential shifting. Even though the Raptor is not a new introduction, the announcement of the power and drive train improvements further solidifies Ford’s positon in reduction of weight and improved efficiency across its product line.

All-new Ford GT: Pics from show floor at the 2015 North American International Auto Show

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Can’t wait to get a closer look at Ford’s new Supercar, but in the meantime you can’t deny the edgy, sporty exterior. Here are just a couple pics from a media friend directly from the show floor after the reveal.

No specs, but here’s some info from Ford:

Ford Redefines Innovation in Aerodynamics, EcoBoost and Light-Weighting with All-New Ford GT Carbon Fiber Supercar

  • All-new Ford GT supercar sets new standards for Ford innovation through performance with advances in light-weighting, aerodynamics and ultra-efficient EcoBoost® engine
  • Ford GT features the most powerful EcoBoost production engine ever – a new twin-turbocharged Ford EcoBoost V6 producing more than 600 horsepower
  • Ultra-high-performance supercar is Ford’s most extreme offering, infused with race-proven technology engineered to keep company with exotics when it goes into production in 2016

Ford today unveiled the all-new GT, an ultra-high-performance supercar that serves as a technology showcase for top EcoBoost® performance, aerodynamics and lightweight carbon fiber construction.

The GT is one of more than 12 new Ford Performance vehicles coming by 2020. It joins Focus RS, F-150 Raptor, Shelby GT350 and Shelby GT350R in the growing Ford Performance lineup. Continue reading