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Ford and Alibaba’s new partnership

While it is unconfirmed, there are talks that Ford Motor Co. will be selling cars to consumers in China through Alibaba’s online retail arm, Tmall.

Representatives of Ford and Alibaba, including Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford and Ford CEO Jim Hackett, are expected to sign a letter of intent that outlines the scope of the partnership.

Jim Hackett, President and CEO, Ford Motor Company, outlines his plans for Ford to become the world’s most trusted mobility company earlier this week.

According to an unnamed source, the deal is intended to position Ford in the emerging Chinese marketplace where more cars will be sold online.

The partnership would be in line with the next phase of their China expansion strategy which was announced earlier this week, where Hackett shared his vision of a bigger presence in China.

Ford global chief spokesman Mark Truby said the company is expected to make an announcement on Thursday in Hangzhou, which is where Alibaba is based, but has declined to make a formal comment.

There is also talk about Ford utilising Tmall’s new retail concept called the “Automotive Vending Machine,” which entails a multi-story parking garage that partly resembles a giant vending machine, to sell directly consumers.

Those cars could come directly from Ford or from its dealers but the details are still to be worked out, the source added.

According to Alibaba, consumers can use their phones to browse through the cars stored in the vending machine and choose to either immediately buy one or test drive it. The vehicle would be delivered to them on the ground floor.

Ford believes dealers would likely agree to this direct retailing model because they still get to service cars sold through Tmall, the Ford source said.

The move could be potentially problematic for dealers, as the danger will be that they could lose out, not only on a lot of car sales, but also the lucrative auto financing aspect of their traditional business.

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Ford’s China expansion strategy

Ford has outlined the next phase of its China expansion strategy which revolves around SUVs, electric and connected vehicles and a new business model.

Photo shows (left to right): Jason Luo, Chairman and CEO, Ford China, Jim Hackett, CEO, Ford Motor Company, Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company, Peter Fleet, Group Vice President and President, Ford Asia Pacific.

Executive Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett shared the vision yesterday while in China this week to meet with employees, customers, dealers and government officials.

“China is not only the largest car market in the world, it’s also at the heart of electric vehicle and SUV growth and the mobility movement,” said Bill Ford. “The progress we have achieved in China is just the start. We now have a chance to expand our presence in China and deliver even more for customers, our partners and society.”

Ford plans to expand its product portfolio by introducing more than 50 new vehicles by 2025. The fleet will include 8 all-new SUVs and at least 15 electrified vehicles from Ford and Lincoln. And a new Zotye-Ford JV venture will deliver a separate range of affordable all-electric vehicles under a new brand.

“From luxury Lincolns, to Ford cars and SUVs, to an all-new electric vehicle brand, we will meet the growing desire and need in China for great new energy vehicles,” said Jason Luo, chairman and CEO, Ford China. “Each of them will be safe, efficient, fun to drive and backed by an ecosystem that makes charging, sharing and servicing easy,” said Hackett.

Jim Hackett, President and CEO, Ford Motor Company, outlines his plans for Ford to become the world’s most trusted mobility company.

It was also announced that by the end of 2019, 100 percent of new Ford and Lincoln-badged vehicles in China will be connected through either embedded modems or plug-in devices. Company leaders also are working on broader infrastructure opportunities to improve future mobility experiences.

“We are responding to the rapid pace of change by delivering increased connectivity and working to improve and simplify mobility for everyone,” Hackett said. “This builds on our commitment to deliver smart vehicles for a smart world, helping people around the world move more safely, confidently and freely.”

“All of the actions outlined today reflect an unprecedented commitment to focus on the needs of consumers in China through a more fit and streamlined Ford,” he added. “They are proof of our dedication to grow our business in China.”

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Cancer care and self-driving cars

Mike Butler became fascinated by the process through which patients were treated after being diagnosed with cancer.

After being diagnosed with cancer Mike Butler, Ford’s quality director, saw an opportunity to introduce practices from the car manufacturing facility into the treatment process of cancer patients.

Butler and the team at the Ford assembly plant in Cologne, Germany researched and developed changes that are now being implemented as part of what is expected to become Germany’s biggest dedicated cancer outpatient unit.

Furthermore, this has since developed into a two-way flow of ideas. Hospital staff at the renowned Centre for Integrated Oncology (CIO) at the University of Cologne are using their big data techniques to help Ford explore future vehicles.

“I spent five years in treatment rooms and thought about how I could make life easier for patients,” said Butler, who is now in remission from colon cancer. “There was a real lightbulb moment when I realised that many of the systems that ensure car plants run smoothly could be applied to the hospital. Now there is an ideas exchange that is benefitting patients today, and could also help the way we move tomorrow. The more we work together the more synergies we find between our work at Ford and the challenges faced in cancer research.”

It all began in 2008 where Ford engineers met with medical staff to demonstrate the efficient practices and advance technologies that were being utilised at the Ford Fiesta Cologne plant, one of the world’s most competent vehicle production plants.

Designed to ensure treatment is less stressful and faster, coloured lines on walls and floors make it easier for staff, patients and visitors to find their way around.

Large screens will help make communication between key medical employees easier. The team also proposed flexible rooms with removable dividers rather than rigid wards and fixed nursing stations.

“Medicine is an ever-changing science where small changes have a huge impact on the lives of patients,” said Prof Dr Michael Hallek, the director of the CIO – that has been repeatedly honoured by German Cancer Aid as one of the top oncological centres in Germany. “With Ford’s help, we are making huge improvements that will benefit the lives and treatment of future patients for years to come. And hopefully, some of our methods of doing things will help Ford to develop what mobility might look like in the future.”

 

 

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Ford, GM defy September predictions in United States

General Motors and Ford have exceeded analysts’ expectations in the United States with increased share prices and sales for the month of September.

General Motors chief economist Mustafa Mohatarem said all the key US economic indicators point toward continued economic growth and stability, while in addition, regions devastated by the recent hurricanes will continue to recover, helping spur new and used vehicle sales.

Reuters reports that the seasonally adjusted annualized rate of U.S. car and light truck sales in September rose to 18.57 million units from 17.72 million units a year earlier, according to Autodata Corp, which tracks industry sales.

According to car makers and dealers, much of the September gains follow the devastating hurricanes that have swept the southern part of the country. Replacing cars will boost U.S. new and used auto sales through at least November, according to industry consultants.

Shares of General Motors rose, up 2.7 per cent yesterday, while those of Ford gained 1.8 per cent, after both car makers reported better than expected sales for September.

 

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Ford to increase EV range

Ford Motor Co. said Monday it will increase its battery electric vehicle offerings beyond the 480 km range crossover EV it plans to offer by 2020.

To develop and research EVs, Ford is setting up an internal team named “Team Edison” in a clear nod to the historical rivalry between its namesake and his contemporary, Nicola Tesla. It will be separate from Ford’s other electrification efforts, which include hybrid and plug-in hybrid offerings.

Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.

“We see an inflection point in the major markets toward battery electric vehicles,” Sherif Marakby, Ford’s head of electrification and autonomous vehicles told website Automotive News. “We feel it’s important to have a cross-functional team all the way from defining the strategy plans and implementation to advanced marketing.”

Marakby said Ford is on track to deliver 13 electrified vehicles over the next five years, and has announced seven of those.

He also said the new team will explore partnerships. Ford was rumored to be in talks earlier this year about acquiring Lucid Motors, and in August said it would form a joint venture with a Chinese manufacturer to produce all-electric vehicles for the Chinese market.

“We are open to partnerships, but this team will be responsible to define the strategy,” Marakby said.

He said the team’s goal was to “move fast and think big and really grow the BEV offerings from Ford.”

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Ford-Mahindra alliance announced

Ford Motor Co announced on Monday they would launch a strategic alliance with Indian car manufacturer Mahindra that the pair say will help to counter challenges posed by rapid technological developments and global competition, Reuters reports.

As increasing numbers of policy makers throughout the world signal that they will transition to entirely electric vehicles, manufacturers of traditional combustion engine vehicles come under pressure to find ways to remain profitable.

One potential benefit to Ford of a partnership with Mahindra is access to lower cost electric vehicle designs and local suppliers it needs to compete in markets such as India.

Ford has less than a 3 per cent market share in India, although its exports from India are expanding. Mahindra could help Ford lower its distribution costs or send production work to Ford’s Indian plants.

Mahindra’s EV concept at the 2017 Geneva motor show.

Mahindra plan on increasing productions from the current 200 vehicles per month to 5000 in the next two years. Mahindra believe that the future of passenger vehicle travel is in electric vehicles, for their environmental, economic and costs saving benefits.

Mahindra’s managing director stated in May that the company plans to increase production  from the current 200 vehicles per month to 5000 in the next two years.

“We plan to expand our range of electric vehicles in the country beyond the four products that we currently have in our line-up,”…”“As the pioneers of electric vehicles in the country, the Group is committed towards making electric vehicles more accessible in order to build a clean and green tomorrow,” he said.

Ford has also made moves to enter the Chinese market recently, and has shifted the production of the Ford Focus (for the US market) to China, rather than Mexico as initially planned.

Following the announcement of the agreement between the two companies, Ford shares rose 0.9 per cent.

Ford president of global markets, Jim Farley, and Ford’s head of Asia Pacific operations, Peter Fleet, told Reuters on Monday that teams from the companies will start meeting next week to discuss ways to benefit in the short and medium term.

“We are focused on the now and near with this initiative. We want to work on the opportunities that are right in front of us,” Farley said.

In the shorter term, Ford and Mahindra suggested they could benefit from collaborating on distribution of vehicles in India, pooling purchasing and collaborating on forays into ride services.

Longer-term projects could include sharing technology or development efforts for electric vehicles, the companies said.

Ford, like global rivals, faces a challenge because electric vehicles engineered for the United States or Europe are too expensive for Indian or Chinese customers. Policymakers in China and India, as well as some European countries, have signaled they want the industry to phase out diesel and gasoline vehicles over the next two to three decades.

 

 

 

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Ford announces off road Ranger variant

New Zealand’s best-selling car will be produced in an off-road performance variant for the first time.

The Ford Motor Company today announced that the Ford Ranger ute, carrying the name ‘Ford Ranger Raptor’, will arrive in New Zealand in 2018. The purpose-built, desert-racing inspired pickup truck joins the Ford Performance family.

Teaser image of the Raptor.

Ford says the Raptor is designed and engineered to deliver an adrenaline pumping experience.

“We are very excited to bring Asia Pacific’s toughest and smartest pickup truck to a whole new level,” said Trevor Worthington, vice president, product development, Ford Asia Pacific. “Ford Ranger Raptor will offer Ranger fans a fantastic opportunity to own an authentic off-road performance version of their favourite truck for the first time.”

The standard Ford ranger remains NZ’s top selling commercial, and overall.

The Ford Ranger Raptor joins F-150 Raptor as part of the Ford Performance brand, joining the on-road high performance GT, Ford Mustang Shelby, Focus RS and Focus ST.

Though the Toyota Hilux managed to knock the Ford Ranger off the top spot for the best-selling commercial model last August, it remains the top model overall in New Zealand with 6,320 registrations year to date.

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Ford CEO revisiting company plans

Ford CEO Jim Hackett

Ford’s chief executive Jim Hackett is reviewing the car maker’s future product programmes, including plans to build a commercial autonomous vehicle by 2021, and its operations in India, according to company officials.

Hackett took the reins as Ford CEO in May, and told investors he was working on a 100-day review of operations.

Details have been thin, but so far, Hackett has indicated that Ford will look at its luxury vehicle brand Lincoln, the future of its small vehicles and investments in emerging markets.

Ford’s chief financial officer, Bob Shanks, told Reuters that the review will cover a range of issues at the car maker, including Ford’s Indian strategy, saying “we have a lot of work to do as we address issues of how to fix India.”

“Everything is on the table,” Shanks added. “Some big decisions will be made.”

Hackett aims to address the challenges which has seen Ford’s share price decline eight per cent this year.

As well as the Lincoln brand and the self-driving commercial ride-sharing fleet, currently scheduled for launch in 2021, Hackett is reviewing other arms of the business.

One of these is the production of small cars such as the Ford Fiesta, which are built in multiple factories around the world. With demand beginning to slow, Hackett is assessing whether or not the production lines could be consolidated.

Hackett is also said to be questioning current plans to rebuilt at least half a dozen future models, Reuters reports. These include replacements for the Ford Mustang and Explorer on a new flexible platform that is designed to accommodate both front- and rear-wheel-drive vehicles.

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Ranger sets half-year record in Asia-Pacific

Sales of the Ford Ranger have increased a massive 21 per cent in Asia Pacific thanks to half-year sales records in Australia and New Zealand.

Year-on-year, retail sales of the Ranger in the first six months increased to a record 63,525 units – up 21 per cent compared to the first six months of 2016.

Ford said the record was driven by high Australian sales, which rose 19 per cent to 21,638 vehicles. Sales also increased in other markets across Asia-Pacific – New Zealand sales in the first half of the year rose 24 per cent to a record volume of 4,980 vehicles, and the Ranger remains the highest-selling new vehicle overall in the country.

The fastest-growing market was in Thailand, where sales jumped 51 per cent to 20,230 vehicles and a market share of 11.7 per cent. In the Philippines, year-on-year sales rose 16 per cent to 4,596 vehicles, another record, where it held 25 per cent of the market segment.

Sales held steady in Vietnam, up two per cent to 6,985. This growth may lag behind other Asia-Pacific nations, but with a 57 per cent segment share, it’s difficult to see how much further the Ranger could expand into the Vietnamese vehicle market.

In other markets, including Taiwan, Cambodia and New Caledonia, the Ranger was also the top-selling ute for the first half of the year.

“Demand for Ford Ranger continues to rise as consumer needs evolve towards a versatile vehicle that can be used for both work and play,” said Graeme Whickman, President and CEO of Ford Australia, adding that “we expect demand will continue to rise.”

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Ford unveils ‘showroom of the future’

Elena Ford leads the demonstration of new tech.

The Bayford Group has opened the first Ford ‘Showroom of the future’ in the Southern Hemisphere in Melbourne.

Ford partnered with Fitch Design to create the space, and says the new retail concept will become a global standard.

Features in the showroom include a complimentary café and breakfast bar, kids’ play room, free wi-fi and a cinema room.

The dealer principal of Bayford Ford Epping, David Blackwood, said it was “a great honour to be chosen as the first site in Australia, and one of the first in the world, to receive this amazing refresh.”

The opening was attended by Ford’s global leader in consumer experience, Elena A. Ford, who said the showroom was part of Ford’s global interior refresh programme.

“Ford is focused on connecting with consumers on their terms and building an experience they will love, regardless of where they meet us,” she said.

A new ‘tech-bar’ will showcase new retail technology. Model information will be updated constantly and is accessible and customisable on a new digital content platform. Printed posters have become a thing of the past, and dealers how have the option to change their display branding via a cloud-based media system.   

The Ford of Australia president, Graeme Whickman, said it was an “exciting” time for Ford, and that the division plans to expand. By 2021, the company aims to have 90 updated showrooms across the country.

Whickman said the new space “allows the customer to be in control and showcase the vehicles in a unique and stimulating way, whilst providing customers with purposeful technology.”

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Marijuana found in Fusions

Investigators are trying to work out how a shipment of marijuana, worth $(US)1 million was hidden in the boots and spare wheel compartments of a group of brand new Ford Fusion vehicles.

The cars were manufactured at the Ford plant in Hermosillo, Sonora in Mexico and sent by rail to a dealership in Ohio.

The haul was packed in the spare tire wheel wells and according to Silverio Balzano, agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Youngstown office says someone forgot to pick them up on the way. “Clearly something went wrong,” he told news agency, CNN.

The July incident is not the first and in March, police in Dilworth, Minnesota, also discovered drugs packed in the spare wheel spot of a group of Ford Fusions.

“We’re aware of the situation and are taking it very seriously,” a Ford Motor Company spokesman said recently. “We are working with the FBI and Customs on an extensive investigation. We have confirmed that this is not happening at our plant or at our internal shipping yards.”

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