Drive Type: rwd
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, United States
True story: Last fall, I had the opportunity to spend a week with Ford's new 2013 Shelby GT500 - the Blue Oval's factory Mustang with 662 horsepower and 631 pound-feet of torque. It's an amazing beast, to be sure. I'm not sure if it was Michigan's damp streets strewn with potholes and wet leaves, but at no point did I ever say to myself, "You know, Ford is on to a really good thing here, but what it really needs is about twice the power." And yet, for people in warmer climes with infrastructure in better nick - or for those whose muscle cars live their lives out on the track, there's apparently sufficient demand to warrant just such a beast.
Quick studies will recall that Shelby American launched its 1000 last year to commemorate its 50th anniversary, but it is returning to the New York Auto Show with a fresh version based on the 2013 GT500 I drove. The 2013 Shelby 1000 whips up 1,200 horsepower on pump gas thanks to beefed-up forced induction, engine internals and cooling. Wisely, it also incorporates an adjustable suspension and big brake package to make sure those ponies have the best chance being safely deployed to the ground.
What price the world's most powerful "production" muscle car? $154,995 for starters - donor GT500 not included. What, no convertible variant?
Ford is doing well. It can't make enough examples of its new Fusion, it can barely make enough of the aging F-150, it's getting good brand rankings, people like its turnaround story, it's selling oodles of product and its quarterly profit numbers end in the word "billion." As other high-flying examples have demonstrated over the past few years, though, big numbers can come with problems that aren't exactly small.
Automotive News has published a good "nutshell" report of Ford's progress and problems. The Dearborn automaker's optimistic "general label rule" determination of gas mileage for the C-Max Hybrid has led to lawsuits, hybrid software updates, a downward revision of C-Max fuel economy and millions in rebates. AN notes the C-Max was the "worst-scoring model in this year's J.D. Power Initial Quality Study," but Ford will probably be happy that it managed not to be mentioned further in the study's results after last year's mediocre showing. Its MyTouch and SYNC systems, the bugbears sabotaging Ford's J.D. Power results, have also led to lawsuits, software updates, more software updates and a center console rethink. On top of that, the 1.6-liter EcoBoost in the 2013 Ford Escape that Ford called a "hero" was soon catching fire for three different reasons. And let's not even get into the troubled launch of the Lincoln MKZ.
The Automotive News piece notes that industry observers have been surprised at Ford's stumbles because everything has been looking so good. Nevertheless, there is still the issue of those billions in profits - the company is doing plenty of things, plural, right. Ford says it is tackling its problems, hiring engineers and instituting new quality control processes as part of its effort to find solutions. The test will be to see if in a year from now we begin the discussion of these issues with "Remember when Ford...", or "Problems continue at The Blue Oval."
Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (CGRFS) announced yesterday at Ford's SEMA press conference that it will field a Ford-Riley Daytona Prototype with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 in the 2014 United SportsCar Championship (USCC). CGRFS is the second team to commit to the new Ford-Riley car, behind Michael Shank Racing (which has already used the racecar to break a 26-year-old top-speed record at Daytona International Speedway).
"Over the last 10 seasons we have been able to experience a great deal of success in Grand-Am," Chip Ganassi says, "and now with the dawn of the new United SportsCar Championship we feel that Ford power will be a key ingredient to writing the next chapter of our sports car program."
In the last Grand-Am season, CGRFS raced a BMW-Riley Daytona Prototype. The team has won seven Daytona Prototype championships, all in the past ten years. Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas return as the team's prototype co-drivers, and will attend their maiden race in the Ford-Riley at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.