For the last couple of days, I have been in Detroit, Michigan attending the North American International Auto Show. My trip along with 140 plus bloggers was sponsored by Ford to learn about the Company’s mission to provide smart, safe, and green cars. In my wildest dreams I would have never imagined the education I received.
Not only did I learn about their sustainability goals, which is dear to my heart, and their evolving technology but how a car is made. Mind you, not an easy task. Come along and find out what I learned.
History of a Company
In order to understand the long history of the company and its ethos, I believe you need to look at their past. Ford is a family owned company which has been around since 1903. Our first night in Detroit, we visited the Henry Ford Museum where we saw the new exhibit, Driving America, an interactive display of 100 vehicles. (A must see if you visit the Detroit area.)
If you stop and think, cars are so much a part of our own history. Their shape and colors reveal the history of our society. At the exhibit, my most memorable moments were sitting on Rosa Park’s bus and touching the spot where JFK’s car was shot. Both cars reminded me of such vulnerable moments in our history.
Our society now yearned for fuel efficient cars as a push back from oil dependency. Ford heard the call.
The International Auto Show
The following day was Ford’s press conferences and the North American International Auto Show where the likes of Toyota, Honda, Mercedes, and BMW attended to show off their new cars.
Bring On the Fusion
With the glitz of a rock concert (smoke and all,) Ford unveiled its newly designed Fusion. This car is comparable in size to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. (Remember, I drove the old Fusion just six months ago?) Ford touts the Fusion’s fuel efficiency, affordability and luxury.
Smart, Green, and Safe
During the press conference, Ford elaborated on their motto, smart, safe, and green. Their Sync technology applications keep their consumers connected and safe via a hands-free system. In fact, Ford announced that they will be opening a research and development facility in Silicon Valley to be closer to high tech companies and universities. Their research team will continue to expand app integrations in the Sync technology.
What kind of apps? Just to give you an example, at the International Consumer Electronic Show, the Company announced an alliance with Microsoft, Healthrageous and BlueMetal Architects to research technology to monitor health and wellness while in your car. Talk about a doctor on call.
In addition, the Ford Fusion will offer the Lane Keeping System which keeps you from drifting outside your lane. This technology is especially important for drivers who are drowsy. For more information about this technology see here.
As for the green part of their mission, the Company spoke about their Eco-Boost, hybrid, and electric vehicles. Along with their eco-fuel strives, the Company has replaced many parts of the cars with plastic alternatives. See the below videos in which both Angela Harris and Ellen Lee explain the material sustainability of the cars.
The way the press swarmed the cars, you would have thought the President made an appearance. (See the picture above.) What made the press conference so impressive was the accessibility of Ford’s product team. Questions flew left and right and were dutifully answered by real people who were so openly passionate about their work with the Fusion.
The Headquarter Tour-Mouth Dropping
The last leg of the journey was a 1/2 day at Ford Headquarters learning how they design a car and the sustainable materials they use. I love design and clamor to learn more of how things are made. It just gives you an amazing perspective of how and why a product exists.
First stop was the technology lab where the car begins its journey. The most exciting part was to watch how technology aids in the design. The team showed us how they can change the inside, drive the car around to see how it looks, and compared its colors in different lights. I even got to drive the car with a PlayStation remote. All I could do was 360 donuts since I leave video games to my kids. My kids would have thought I was pathetic. But, then again, I wouldn’t classify myself as the world’s best driver either. *Sigh*
Clay Modeling of the Designs
Our second stop was the modeling room where large clay models are made to replicate the car. We got to scalp the cars with different tools. What a fascinating profession for someone who loves to sculpt.
Our third stop was the sustainability lab. Many of you might remember my podcast interview two years ago with Deborah Mielewski, Ford’s Technical Leader in Plastics Research. Her team presented Ford’s efforts to reduce their use of virgin plastic in their cars. And yes, I got to give Debbie a big hug.
Watch the below video of Ellen Lee and Angela Harris as they spoke about the various alternative materials they use including soy, wheat straw and polylactic acid (PLA).
Ellen and Angela:
Our fourth stop was the driving lab where the team works on the seat configuration. In my opinion, how comfortable is the driver’s seat is my top priority in choosing a car. No one likes an uncomfortable seat.
Its All in the Motion
The final stop was the lab where they configure how you get in an out of a car. The gentleman in the below picture got in and out of the car many, many times as the team recorded his motions. Would you want to be that guy?
Whew! Then it was back to New Jersey land and picking up after the cavemen. (Ford, take me back. Please.)
But the Best Part Was:
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you the best part of the trip was meeting some of the green moms from the Green Mom Carnival for the first time in person. (Diane of Green Big Purse, Tiffany of Nature Mom, who lent me many of the above pictures, and Jenn of the Green Parent.) For over three years we have shared an online camaraderie which was strengthened by our trip together. We even picked up two more green moms on the trip: Stephanie of GoodGirlGoneGreen and Shane of Envirobooty.
I loved every minute of this trip and came back with a new found appreciation of how much work goes into making cars.
However, you are not off the car hook yet. I podcasted with the Ford team about the Fusion, the Toyota team about their new Prius as well as the up and coming hydrogen fuel cell car, and DiamlerChrysler (who makes Mercedes) about their Smart Car. For my Dad, who is a BMW aficionado, I learned about their new hybrid and up and coming electric cars. Those posts are forth coming.
Join the Conversation
- What do you think about Ford’s sustainability?
- How do you feel about Ford as a brand?
- Do you think car makers are doing enough for the environment?
Disclaimer: Ford sponsored my trip to the North American International Auto Show and paid for my meals and lodging; however, the opinion noted above are my own. I wasn’t required to write about Ford at all.
Most of the pictures were taken by Tiffany’s of Nature Mom.