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Auto blogWed, 23 Apr 2014 18:29:00 EST
Alan Mulally has emerged as a hero when it comes to American manufacturing. He came to Ford in 2006 after serving as head of Boeing's commercial aircraft division, streamlined operations, sold off the costly elements of its Premier Automotive Group and saved Ford from having to be bailed out by the federal government like its cross-town rivals Chrysler and General Motors did. But as we reported mere days ago, he's widely expected to step down from the chief executive's office at Ford shortly.
So what's next for one of the most successful executives in the business? Hard to say, but don't expect Mulally to disappear into retirement. Though he didn't ultimately take the top job at Microsoft, industry insiders expect to see him in another influential position - likely as a board director or even chairman of another company. (We say "another company" and not Ford because while Bill Ford may have stepped aside as CEO to bring Mulally on board in the first place, we don't see him giving up his chairmanship of the board also.)
Mulally has likely already lined up his next move, and could either announce what that move will be as soon as Ford confirms Mark Fields as his successor, or could wait awhile. Insiders speculate that he could leverage his transportation and aerospace experience into a position at General Electric or a major airline, his manufacturing expertise to benefit a company like Procter & Gamble or his management skills at a consultancy firm.
Earlier this week, reports were swirling 'round the internet about the 2014 Ford Fusion getting a new 1.5-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost engine. That was... half correct. Ford today confirmed that the 2014 Fusion is, in fact, getting a new 1.5-liter EcoBoost mill, but it has four cylinders, not three.
The new 1.5-liter engine will be the fifth EcoBoost powerplant from Ford Motor Company. Initially to be built at the automaker's Craiova, Romania plant, it will also be offered in the Fusion's twin, the Mondeo, in other markets. This engine will debut at the Shanghai Motor Show next month, and the 1.5-liter is of particular importance in the Chinese market - there is significant tax relief in the People's Republic for vehicles powered by engines with a capacity of 1.5 liters or less.
At a media briefing Thursday, Ford declined to divulge exact power or fuel economy numbers, though Joe Bakaj, vice president of powertrain engineering, told Autoblog that power output should be similar to that of the current 1.6-liter inline-four, and that overall efficiency will be "better than the 1.6." Our earlier report stated that the 1.5-liter four will produce 177 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque - losses of 1 hp and 7 lb-ft versus the 1.6-liter engine. Ford states that the 1.5-liter four will feature many of the same technologies used on the company's 1.0-liter EcoBoost inline-three, including an integrated exhaust manifold that recaptures much of the engine's heat.
At present, over 90 percent of all new vehicles sold in the United States today are equipped with event data recorders, more commonly known as black boxes. If the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gets its way, that already high figure will swell to a full 100 percent in short order.
Such automotive black boxes have been in existence since the 1990s, and all current Ford, General Motors, Mazda and Toyota vehicles are so equipped. NHTSA has been attempting to make these data recorders mandatory for automakers, and according to The Detroit News, the White House Office of Management Budget has just finished reviewing the proposal, clearing the way. Now NHTSA is expected to draft new legislation to make the boxes a requirement.
One problem with current black boxes is that there's no set of standards for automakers to follow when creating what bits of data are recorded, and for how long or in what format it is stored. In other words, one automaker's box is probably not compatible with its competitors.