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Auto blogThu, 03 Apr 2014 08:00:00 EST
The Russian auto market, in decline for the past year and further hit by the declining value of the ruble and recent sanctions over its annexation of Crimea, has forced Ford to cut jobs and shifts at two of its joint venture plants there. Around 700 of the 2,700 total workers who build the Russian-market Focus and Mondeo will be cut at the plant in Vsevolozhsk, near St. Petersburg as it drops to a single production shift. A second plant about 700 miles away in Yelabuga, in the Tartarstan region, will lose 250 workers. That plant builds seven vehicles, including the Explorer, Kuga and Edge.
The Moscow Times says Ford has been especially hit by the market decline, the overall market losing 5.5 percent in 2013 compared to the year before, but Ford sales dropping 18 percent in 2013 year-on-year. This year isn't going any better, with The Blue Oval posting a 21-percent decline through the first two months of 2014. That's why, though the Yelabuga plant builds the CUVs that customers are moving into, even it is facing cuts.
The job cuts in Vsevolozhsk come on top four-week plant shutdown planned so that the paint and body shops can go to one shift. In a statement, the company said, "Ford Sollers remains absolutely committed to the Russian market and is confident it has the right product plan, people and assets to deliver long-term profitable growth."
As we prepare for the arrival of the all-new, next-generation Ford F-150, rumors about the new truck are picking up steam. Naturally, many of said rumors aren't just related to the way the truck will look (it's expected to take design cues from the Atlas concept shown above), they're tied to what's going to motivate the Blue Oval mainstay, with Ford's EcoBoost range likely to play an increasingly key role. While we're still expecting the current 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 to retain its position as a premium alternative to Ford's naturally aspirated V6 and V8, a Canadian automotive news site is proposing that the Dearborn automaker is also preparing a new, more fuel-efficient downsized EcoBoost option.
Autos.ca is reporting that a new, 2.7-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 could find its way into the lighter, aluminum-intensive truck. The new engine supposedly makes use of asymmetrical turbos to generate 320 horsepower and 370 pound-feet of torque - substantially more impressive numbers than the current 3.7-liter base engine's 302 ponies and 278 lb-ft - while offering improved fuel economy and emissions. The new 2.7 EcoBoost (internally dubbed "Nano") isn't expected to supplant the naturally aspirated V6 as the F-150's base engine, it's expected to slot in above directly it.
Naturally, we're prescribing more than a few grains of salt to go with these rumors, at least until Ford debuts the next F-150 at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, a reveal we'll be covering in a mere two weeks.
Ask the average consumer - at least, those who follow the goings-on in the automotive industry - which carmaker they'd most closely associate Microsoft, and the answer you'd most likely get would be Ford. The Blue Oval automaker, after all, was at the forefront of bringing Microsoft technology into cars with its pioneering Sync system, and, though reality didn't turn out as such, Ford's CEO was recently touted as a potential future head of the Redmond-based software giant. But that relationship, according to the latest reports, could be coming to an end.
Alan Mullaly kiboshed the idea of leaving Dearborn for Redmond, but more importantly Ford is tipped to be ditching Microsoft in developing its next-generation Sync system. In its place, Ford is expected to partner with BlackBerry's QNX division.
Now, before you go balking "BlackBerry?! But they're finished!" consider that QNX is (or at least was) an independent entity that Research In Motion (as BlackBerry's Ontario-based parent company was then known) just happened to have bought back in 2010. QNX provides control systems to everything from nuclear power plants and UAVs to automakers like Audi, BMW and Porsche.