TECHNOLOGY IN FOCUS [The Manila Times, Philippines]
(Manila Times (Phillipines) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 10--Ford delivers in Asean the latest--and to date the most advanced--of the eight global models planned for the region by mid-decade
''W E believe in the democratiza-tion of technology," said Joe Hinrichs, Ford Motor Co.'s president for its Asia Pacific and Africa operations, "and the Ford Focus is a good example of this."
Ford's compact car model--as the carmaker's portfolio increasingly transitions from costly and messy region- or even country-specific lineup of products to a cost-effective one intended for global consumption--was unveiled at the recent Bangkok Motor Show. It's the latest among the eight all-new vehicles Ford has planned to reach Asean by the middle of the decade, and the Focus followed the arrival of the Ford Fiesta subcompact and Ranger pickup, as well as the announcement of the EcoSport compact SUV in January. Now while the three models that preceded the Focus's introduction aren't short on technological features, it is Ford's compact car bet that appears to have been crammed with the most advanced kit.
"Smarter" than average
The carmaker said it was able to equip the Focus with numerous techie features precisely because of the economic viability afforded by the model's global scale of production and customer reach, and so what the car packs are equipment usually associated with larger, more expensive models. Ford ticked off the list starting with its touted SYNC system that allows for hands-free, voice-activated in-car connectivity to mobile phones and portable digital multimedia devices through Bluetooth and a USB port. The Focus's driver--as stressed throughout the model's presentation on the sidelines of the Bangkok show--can place calls or play music via voice commands and control buttons on the car's steering wheel.
Other such fashionably tagged "smart" features that Ford highlighted in the new Focus (including what the company said are segment-firsts) are active park assist which, using various sensors around the car, automatically performs parallel parking without the driver having to steer the car, needing only to press the pedals and shift gears; the premium car staple keyless entry where the car unlocks its driver's door upon detection of its key; and the keyless entry system partner that is push-button starting or switch-off.
Meanwhile, Ford's previous ownership of various automotive brands, over which the carmaker's resources had bled, most likely did not end in naught as the Focus received Volvo-reminiscent technologies like the Active City Stop and Blind Spot Information System. The former feature is a collision-mitigation system that monitors the road ahead for stationary traffic and then brakes the car automatically if it detects a vehicle in front has stopped unexpectedly, while the latter warns the Focus's driver through a light in the car's side-view mirror about other vehicles around that cannot be seen in the mirror.
Also among the premium car kit Ford has lavished on the new Focus are dual-zone, electronically controlled air-conditioning; rain-sensing wipers; automatic headlamps; cruise control; a power-operated sunroof; and a rear-view mirror that dims itself when an idiot following behind the car refuses to switch his headlights to low beam.
Based on Ford's glossy product presentations and corporate spiel, the Focus's list of "smart" equipment identifies the car's target set of buyers--young, upscale professionals, maybe half of whom are women, who embrace newfangled tech.
"The all-new Ford Focus will expand our appeal to a whole new generation of consumers across this region," said Ford Asean President Peter Fleet.
Well-built, safe, green, too
Despite the Focus's presentations' emphasis on the car's techie features (including extended demos on how its driver can place calls or summon songs on an iPod), Ford was quick to dispel notions that the Focus isn't only about the "smart" stuff. Fleet explained that the company was merely taking advantage of the presence in Bangkok of Rodney Phillips, Ford's SYNC engineering manager for Asia Pacific and Africa.
Ford said that like the rest of its new-generation models, the Focus not only benefited from tech features but also on being well-built, safe and green--all while being fun to drive.
So the car, according to Ford, targets class-leading driving quality by blending communicative steering with a significantly improved ride quality. It gets electric power assist and, more importantly, a Torque Vectoring Control system that constantly balances the distribution of torque between the car's front wheels, promising better handling and traction.
"The Focus takes inspiration from our premium cars in terms of wind noise and road noise," said Trevor Worthington, Ford's vehicle programs director for Asia Pacific and Africa. "[With the car,] it's all about craftsmanship."
Ford said that as much as 55 percent of the Focus's body structure is made from high-strength steels, and more than half of these strong yet light material are boron. Besides handling and refinement benefits, this approach helped the car to meet crash regulations in major markets while contributing to fuel economy as well.
The car's safety features include driver and front passenger airbags, side front airbags and side curtain airbags for front- and rear-seat occupants. Complementing these are an electronic stability program that packs within it the emergency brake assist, hill launch assist and ABS with electronic brake-force distribution.
Ensuring the Focus's green cred, meanwhile, is its new Duratec 2.0-liter Ti-VCT GDi engine--or twin camshafts that can be independently and variably timed, and a high-pressure gasoline direct injection system. The combination, Ford said, is good for 167 horsepower and 200 Newton-meter of torque, and improves fuel efficiency as well as performance--almost 20 percent more power, in fact, according to the carmaker. A second engine option is a Duratec 1.6-liter Ti-VCT that makes 123 horsepower and 159 Newton-meter of torque. These can be paired with Ford's dry-clutch, six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission (the smaller engine can also come with a five-speed manual gearbox).
But besides the power plants, what is clearly propelling the Focus lies not under its sleek hood but the "smart" systems in its cabin. "Digital technology is accelerating the future of cars," said Worthington.
"It's more than just a trend."
(c)2012 The Manila Times (Manila, Philippines)
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