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Thread: The Cars You Can't Have

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    The Cars You Can't Have

    From The Sunday Times
    December 2, 2007

    The best just got better
    2008 Ford Focus

    I
    Andrew Frankel

    Unlike in its native America, where the Ford Motor Company is in desperate straits, Ford’s European business is oozing such confidence that it’s in real danger of looking cool.

    Granted, its US parent is desperately flogging off the family silver (Aston Martin has gone, and it hopes Land Rover and Jaguar will soon follow) to raise much needed cash, but sales of Ford cars in Europe are buoyant, and nowhere more so than in Britain, where it’s even turning away business. This year Ford has elected not to pump 15,000 Mondeos into UK car rental fleets because of the harm this does to the long-term residual values of cars people buy with their own money.

    The Focus is the staple that has kept Ford the firm favourite among British car buyers. One in 20 new cars sold in the UK is a Focus, and for every full year it has been on sale since its 1998 launch it has been the land’s bestselling car.

    In the days before the Focus and Mondeo, most Fords were rubbish and people bought them because there was a dealer at the end of their street, not because they thought the Escort and Sierra were any good, which they weren’t. They were cheap to buy and run, didn’t break down too often, and that was good enough.

    But these days excellence is expected, and with this, the third generation of Focus, excellence is precisely what Ford has delivered.

    All car makers know the strengths and weaknesses of their products, but come renewal time, many choose to meddle with already perfectly good areas of design, just because they can. And their “improvements” sometimes involve worsening things – witness the new Chrysler Grand Voyager I wrote about last week, which looks older than the model it replaces.

    So I’m glad to relate that the Focus chassis, a class leader since day one, has been left entirely alone. The Focus still handles with a fluency unmatched by any similar car, rides superbly and offers a degree of driver interaction that many sports cars costing twice as much can’t even provide. And as the engines are state of the art, apart from some tinkering to reduce emissions, they’ve been left alone too.

    What did need addressing was the Focus’s boring appearance, which is why generation three looks like an entirely new car. Ford knew the outgoing Focus looked dowdy next to younger, funkier rivals such as the Honda Civic, so it has changed every exterior panel bar the roof. The result is visually purposeful, distinctive and attractive.

    Inside, Ford rightly identified that quality was becoming an issue in an era of increasing customer expectation, so smart new instruments, dashboard materials, seats and upholstery have been fitted, raising the perceived quality to a level rivalling Peugeot and Renault, and shaded only by the classy VW Golf. Greater attention has also been paid to keeping noise levels down.

    The result is a car that’s very hard to criticise. You might take issue with some of the carried-over interior fittings, you might find the clutch action too sharp, and I didn’t much care for the style of the alloy wheels of the 2 litre diesel I tested. But, as you can probably tell, I’m struggling to be negative.

    Not once in a long afternoon spent with the car did it annoy me, and that is a rare achievement for any car, at any price. I drove it through towns, along motorways, up and down a mountain pass, and it felt at home in each of these environments.

    Despite strengthened class competition of late, the greatest appeal of the Focus – the fact that it’s a driver’s car – still keeps it well distanced from its rivals. Yet, for all its abilities, many will still choose a Golf, not just for the slower depreciation, but because it’s a Volkswagen and not a Ford. To many people, these things count.

    Personally I don’t care what a car says about me; I just care for the car. And that is why I have no doubt that the Focus is still what it has been for so long – the best small family car you can buy.

    Vital statistics

    Model Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi Titanium

    Engine type 1997cc, four cylinders, turbodiesel

    Power/Torque 136bhp @ 4000rpm / 235 lb ft @ 2000rpm

    Transmission Six-speed manual

    Fuel/CO2 51.3mpg (combined cycle) / 144g/km

    Performance 0-62mph: 9.3sec (estimated) / Top speed: 126mph

    Price £18,295

    Verdict The very best car in the family hatchback business

    Rating

    Date of release January 2008

    The opposition

    Model Hyundai i30 2.0 CRDi Premium £16,595 For Exceptional value, good to drive, great warranty Against Rather dull exterior, unattractive cabin

    Model VW Golf GT Sport 2.0 TDI 5dr £18,887 For Good image, quality, comfort and residual values Against The Focus both drives and looks better

    Ford elected not to bring the "third generation" Focus over in 2005, so we had the same stale car with only minor "refreshes" which included a less sporty suspension. The US WILL get the fourth gen. in about 2010 along with Europe though..
    Last edited by Nickdfresh; 02-04-2009 at 12:33 PM.
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    Green Biz September 4, 2008, 5:00PM EST text size: TT
    The 65 mpg Ford the U.S. Can't Have
    Ford's Fiesta ECOnetic gets an astonishing 65 mpg, but the carmaker can't afford to sell it in the U.S.


    By David Kiley

    If ever there was a car made for the times, this would seem to be it: a sporty subcompact that seats five, offers a navigation system, and gets a whopping 65 miles to the gallon. Oh yes, and the car is made by Ford Motor (F), known widely for lumbering gas hogs.

    Ford's 2009 Fiesta ECOnetic goes on sale in November. But here's the catch: Despite the car's potential to transform Ford's image and help it compete with Toyota Motor (TM) and Honda Motor (HMC) in its home market, the company will sell the little fuel sipper only in Europe. "We know it's an awesome vehicle," says Ford America President Mark Fields. "But there are business reasons why we can't sell it in the U.S." The main one: The Fiesta ECOnetic runs on diesel.

    Automakers such as Volkswagen (VLKAY) and Mercedes-Benz (DAI) have predicted for years that a technology called "clean diesel" would overcome many Americans' antipathy to a fuel still often thought of as the smelly stuff that powers tractor trailers. Diesel vehicles now hitting the market with pollution-fighting technology are as clean or cleaner than gasoline and at least 30% more fuel-efficient.

    Yet while half of all cars sold in Europe last year ran on diesel, the U.S. market remains relatively unfriendly to the fuel. Taxes aimed at commercial trucks mean diesel costs anywhere from 40 cents to $1 more per gallon than gasoline. Add to this the success of the Toyota Prius, and you can see why only 3% of cars in the U.S. use diesel. "Americans see hybrids as the darling," says Global Insight auto analyst Philip Gott, "and diesel as old-tech."

    None of this is stopping European and Japanese automakers, which are betting they can jump-start the U.S. market with new diesel models. Mercedes-Benz by next year will have three cars it markets as "BlueTec." Even Nissan (NSANY) and Honda, which long opposed building diesel cars in Europe, plan to introduce them in the U.S. in 2010. But Ford, whose Fiesta ECOnetic compares favorably with European diesels, can't make a business case for bringing the car to the U.S.
    TOO PRICEY TO IMPORT

    First of all, the engines are built in Britain, so labor costs are high. Plus the pound remains stronger than the greenback. At prevailing exchange rates, the Fiesta ECOnetic would sell for about $25,700 in the U.S. By contrast, the Prius typically goes for about $24,000. A $1,300 tax deduction available to buyers of new diesel cars could bring the price of the Fiesta to around $24,400. But Ford doesn't believe it could charge enough to make money on an imported ECOnetic.

    Ford plans to make a gas-powered version of the Fiesta in Mexico for the U.S. So why not manufacture diesel engines there, too? Building a plant would cost at least $350 million at a time when Ford has been burning through more than $1 billion a month in cash reserves. Besides, the automaker would have to produce at least 350,000 engines a year to make such a venture profitable. "We just don't think North and South America would buy that many diesel cars," says Fields.

    The question, of course, is whether the U.S. ever will embrace diesel fuel and allow automakers to achieve sufficient scale to make money on such vehicles. California certified VW and Mercedes diesel cars earlier this year, after a four-year ban. James N. Hall, of auto researcher 293 Analysts, says that bellwether state and the Northeast remain "hostile to diesel." But the risk to Ford is that the fuel takes off, and the carmaker finds itself playing catch-up—despite having a serious diesel contender in its arsenal.

    Bussiness Week

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    I've owned lots of diesel cars, my alltime favorite for a fun car was that little VW Rabbit Pickup diesel piece of shit. When they fall apart it's no fun at all, but man, that thing got over 40mpg back in the 80's when gasoline was 1.29 and nobody was paying attention.

    The best was the 1985 Mercedes 300CD AMG. That was the fookin' TITS! Best year, best engine, best interior. Best car ever made ever.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nickdfresh View Post
    Green Biz September 4, 2008, 5:00PM EST text size: TT
    The 65 mpg Ford the U.S. Can't Have
    Ford's Fiesta ECOnetic gets an astonishing 65 mpg, but the carmaker can't afford to sell it in the U.S.

    Too much of a resemblance to a Peugot, IMO...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coyote View Post
    Too much of a resemblance to a Peugot, IMO...
    I was thinking the old Honda CRX that looked like a Penny Racer.
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    Here's something from Ford Australia that you won't see here, the Falcon Ute....

    <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/SMIdtyBDvXY&hl=en&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/SMIdtyBDvXY&hl=en&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

    aka "Ranchero for the 21st century". Not exactly a 60 MPG green machine, but definitely a step up from the gas guzzler trucks they sell here. Give me a hybrid or a diesel version of this and I'd drive it. As opposed to some of the others shown here, which I probably wouldn't fit in
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    GM was considering bringing over the Holden ute as the Pontiac G8 sport truck but they killed it.
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    When I was buying biodiesel stock two years, nobody believed me. It's coming and there is more and more evidence of it everyday. Diesel is the way of the future.

    I have a friend who bought a blue tec mercedes, can hardly tell the difference between that and a stock one (diesel pinging very subtle, no odor of diesel at all).
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    take it in for service and the difference may be more clear. i'm hearing that urea injection whatever the MB's use is expensive to refill/replace.

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    I saw the Bluetec MBZ's at the LA Car Show a year ago, it is stunning and the only thing holding back Diesel is the gelling in cold weather problem:

    when it's below 30 degrees weather outside, the waxes called Paraffins in diesel fuels solidify and plug the lines.

    Then your'e fucked if you can't get started again: the mechanic has to heat and flush the lines, then pour fuel additive called antigel or Diesel911 in the tank to keep it from happening again.

    Corn ethanols and other biodiesel fuels from jathropa and castor have high wax contents, even when you filter them as seen here:

    <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Znu_kFyHt1o&hl=en&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Znu_kFyHt1o&hl=en&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

    Oh biodiesel is real, that's no lie. That's not the only jathropa oilpress video, either youtube's full of them.

    Jathropa is where the future of biodiesel exists because the shrub can grow in deserts and shitty climates normally disregarded as "arid"

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    <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/bJQ-VDrdp2Q&hl=en&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/bJQ-VDrdp2Q&hl=en&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

    AHA here's the jellying of the lines I was talking about. Here in SoCal I left to go back east in my diesel just fine, then one nite the temperature dropped and I was stranded because the car wouldn't start.

    That's probably what my fuel tank looked like on the inside, with 10 inches of snow back in November.

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