All Mustang Mach-E models top 200 miles between charges

When the Ford Mustang Mach-E arrives at dealerships next month, salespeople may not have to deal too much with customers’ range-anxiety concerns.

The all-wheel-drive base model’s driving range between charges — 211 miles — is good for about a week’s worth of commuting.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ latest data, the average American drives 29 miles per day to and from work.

Three other Mach-E models have been EPA-certified to go even further between charges.

The base model of the rear-wheel-drive Mach-E is rated at 230 miles on a single charge.

An extended-range awd model has a 270-mile rating and the extended-range rwd Mach-E can travel 300 miles between charges — about equal to the distance a V-6-powered Ford Edge with all-wheel drive can travel on a single tank of fuel based on the EPA’s 21 mpg combined city/highway rating for the vehicle.

Ford previously said the Mach-E’s range will start at 230 miles, with more expensive trims getting up to 300 miles.

Pricing for the Mach-E starts at $43,995 for the base model and tops out at $61,600 for the Mach-E GT.

Va. retailer partners with schools for techs

Nearly two years ago, Charlie Gilchrist, then president of the National Automobile Dealers Association, warned that the biggest threat facing the industry was a shortage of qualified body shop technicians.

Even before Gilchrist sounded the alarm bells, Barton Ford in Suffolk, Va., was doing something about it.

The dealership has been teaming up with nearby schools to create a local talent pipeline that it’s using to keep its service department humming.

Barton Ford set up a paid internship program with the College and Career Academy at Pruden, a technical school about 4 miles away, and has hired at least six students from the school over the past three years. This month, the dealership partnered with Ford to donate a 2015 F-150 Platinum to the school so students would have a modern vehicle to practice repairs on during class.

The dealership also has assisted nearby Tidewater Community College, paying part of students’ tuition, donating tools and helping them attain necessary certifications.

“We want to make sure we support our local trade schools so we can grow our own from there,” Tracey Everitt, Barton Ford’s service manager, told Automotive News. “People don’t realize that being a technician is not just a job anymore, it’s definitely a career. It can start right there.”

The dealership, which employs 17 technicians, currently has three interns from the College and Career Academy at Pruden on the payroll; two work 40-hour weeks while a third works two days a week. The interns typically are paired with a trained technician and get to experience service work firsthand.

Connie Burgess, the school’s principal, said those experiences are key.

“It provides the workplace environment for the students to put into action what they’ve learned in the classroom,” she said. “It truly enriches the educational program for the students.”

The school offers two auto-related programs: automotive technology and auto body repair. The internships at Barton Ford typically take place near the end of their time at the school, potentially setting up employment opportunities afterward.

The dealership chose to donate a 2015 F-150 because it was relatively new but had enough miles on it to need a few basic repairs — giving students the ability to work on it immediately.

“When we took a tour of the center, we noticed the things they were working on were older and not as up-to-date as they needed to be,” Everitt said. “The best way to learn is hands-on.”

In a statement, the school said the pickup would “enhance our instructional program through facilitation of experiential learning opportunities, observation of modern automotive systems and contextualization of repairs and services to the current market.”

Barton wanted to donate the truck earlier this year, but the coronavirus pandemic froze those plans for months. The dealership’s service center has continued to operate throughout the pandemic and its techs have seen no slowdown in repair work, making the interns even more valuable.

Everitt said hiring students who have completed the program is beneficial because they know exactly what’s expected of them.

“It’s great for us because of the way they’ve been taught,” Everitt said. “They definitely are prepared mentally.”

Detroit has reembraced Canada

The significance of the Detroit 3’s new contracts with the Canadian union Unifor is hard to overstate.

When talks began in the summer, the future was in doubt for Ford Motor Co.’s plant in Oakville, Ontario. Feelings were still raw over General Motors’ 2019 closure of its historic Oshawa plant. And Fiat Chrysler’s minivan plant in Windsor was losing shifts as demand for minivans shrank.

Canadian auto manufacturing was in decline. Just preserving the status quo might have been seen as a win for Unifor and its leader, Jerry Dias. But instead, in one of the big surprises of this pandemic-stricken year, the three automakers committed up to CA$4.9 billion ($3.74 billion U.S.) in investments.

The Oakville factory will be converted to build electric vehicles. FCA has pledged as much as CA$1.58 billion, most of it for green-vehicle production in Windsor. And in the biggest of the stories, GM agreed to reopen Oshawa Assembly to build full-size pickups.

Dias certainly deserves his share of credit. So does the government of Canada. The government of Ontario, too, as it has shifted from a previous mindset that equated auto industry incentive support with corporate welfare.

The CA$1.8 billion Oakville deal included CA$590 million in government funding. The FCA and GM accords are contingent on expected government support.

How did it all happen? For a longer-term perspective, I talked with Ray Tanguay. The 71-year-old from Mattice, a French-speaking town in northern Ontario, joined Toyota in 1991 and later became president and chairman of its Canadian manufacturing operations. He’s still actively promoting Canadian interests, advocating for skilled-trades training as a member of a college board and he is a director of the Open Road dealership group in Vancouver.

His stature at Toyota went far beyond the company’s assembly plants in Cambridge and Woodstock. In the twilight of his career, in 2010, he was tapped by President Akio Toyoda to help craft a global vision plan for the automaker.

After retiring from Toyota in 2015, Tanguay took on a new role for the better part of three years: Canada’s auto czar. As Automotive News said at the time, his mission was to use his contacts to lure investment to what we called Canada’s “struggling auto sector.”

The work was done under the umbrella of the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council, which was created in 2002. A key for the group then and now, Tanguay says, is putting automakers, parts suppliers, labor interests and the academic world at the same table on issues such as regulatory reform, and attracting talent and investment.

The early traction got blown off course by the Great Recession and the bankruptcies of Chrysler and General Motors, Tanguay explains. Much of the industry investment afterward had a bias toward low cost, and that favored Mexico.

But the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade is leveling the playing field on labor costs, Tanguay says. The Canadian auto industry is also poised to benefit from the nation’s other deals — such as the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. It might help a Canadian EV plant be designated as a global supply source, in much the same way that BMW’s plant in South Carolina builds crossovers for the world.

Beyond trade, the federal government’s push for zero-emission vehicles as part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate agenda made support of a Ford EV plant very appealing.

There’s still a lot to be done, Tanguay says. Canada’s supply chain has to gear up to support EV production. And there will be a shortage of skilled-trades candidates to replace the newly retired.

“We have to raise the awareness that these are high-paying jobs,” he says.

Some questions remain. High among them: Who knows what the demand for EVs will be like down the road?

But for now, the latest contract round is a big win for not just the Detroit 3 and their Canadian workers, but also for Canada. It’s been a long time coming.

Tanguay’s years at Toyota helped put that wait in perspective.

“They always have a long-term view,” he says of his former employer. “Don’t think short term; think long term. That’s how we’re going to win.”

On AV safety, collaboration is crucial

Three years ago, Intel and Mobileye introduced the responsibility-sensitive safety, or RSS, model to encourage the automated-vehicle industry to collaborate and align on what it means for an AV to drive safely. For an industry that normally competes on safety, the suggestion was met with mixed response. Some players readily agreed, while others felt strongly that safety assurances were brand attributes and therefore not open for review.

Meanwhile, multiple studies have shown that the public is wary of self-driving vehicles. The idea that a “robot” car could kill somebody is a frightening proposition. This is true even though we all know that human drivers kill thousands of people every day worldwide.

We also know AVs can — and will — be so much better drivers than humans. But how much better? How safe is safe enough before society will allow AVs to bring their life-saving promise to our roads?

This is a critically important question. And we believe the only way to do this is in collaboration with the entire AV industry and governments around the world. Continuing to work on safety in closed groups or individually won’t get us anywhere.

Many have said that “driving safely” is a risk balance between safety and the usefulness of a vehicle. We all make assertive maneuvers to get where we need to go.

Will society allow AVs to drive the same way humans do — assertive maneuvers and all — to get their passengers to their destinations? Or will AVs be required to adhere to more conservative rules, thereby keeping the AV from asserting itself in traffic, moving more slowly than other vehicles and hindering traffic flow?

Safety models such as RSS can help the AV achieve this risk balance. But the safety model itself is only part of the equation. AVs must make assumptions about the reasonable and foreseeable behavior to expect from other road users. Those assumptions — quantified in the form of performance parameters — can then be plugged into the AV’s driving policy via its safety model.

A forthcoming standard from the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers — IEEE 2846 — will give regulators clear guidance on the assumptions they can use to decide how safe is safe enough.

The beauty of IEEE 2846 is that it is being developed in the open by representatives from across the global automotive and automated-driving industry, providing the necessary transparency and peer-reviewed confirmation that gives governing bodies assurance of broad industry consensus needed to set regulations.

This is the collaboration we’ve been advocating since we published RSS, and we are delighted to have more than 27 entities working together to solve this crucial challenge, including co-leaders Waymo and Uber.

Other standards efforts that are limited in membership to only certain kinds of companies or operating in service of proprietary solutions only contribute to skepticism and regulatory delays.

AV safety is a problem we all need to solve. Companies with a stake in the game should challenge themselves to transparently demonstrate in real-world settings how their safety models can not only ensure safety but enable naturalistic real-world driving. Even better, they should join in open standards such as IEEE 2846 to ensure that the performance criteria ultimately adopted into regulation is based on sound scientific methods, peer reviewed and proven both on paper and in the real world.

Time is of the essence. Multiple companies have started operating driverless vehicle services even though consumer trust in them is tenuous at best. One tragic accident may be all that’s needed to keep this promising technology off our roads. Are we really willing to take that risk?

Jeep fans get their wish with V-8 Wrangler

Jeep is adding more power and capability to the Wrangler, addressing a top wish of customers and dealers, and just in time as the SUV prepares to take on the new Ford Bronco.

The Wrangler Rubicon 392 packs a V-8 engine (392 cubic inches) that will deliver 470 hp and 470 pound-feet of torque, while jetting from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. That is 40 percent faster than the V-6 Wrangler Rubicon.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said it’s the first time in 40 years that a V-8 has been a factory option on the Wrangler. The Wrangler’s predecessor, the CJ, was the last to have a V-8, in 1981. That model, FCA said, delivered 125 hp and 220 pound-feet of torque.

The Wrangler Rubicon 392 checks off another box on the Jeep fan wish list, joining the diesel Wrangler, the Gladiator pickup and the upscale Grand Wagoneer that’ll bolster the lineup next summer, said Scott Tallon, head of Jeep product marketing, even as the brand charts a greener future.

The Wrangler Rubicon 392 will hit dealerships in the first quarter of 2021, right in time for the Bronco’s spring debut. Jeep began teasing a 392 concept in July. Pricing will be released closer to the sales launch.

Tallon said the V-8-powered Wrangler isn’t a direct response to the Bronco, which won’t have that option when it debuts.

Customers have “been asking for this for years,” Tallon said. “That’s really what’s helped propel the Jeep brand over the last eight decades. Listen to your customers. It’s amazing what they can help and then drive in terms of success.

“Quite frankly, this has been under development for a really long time, before we really knew anything about the Bronco,” Tallon added. “It’s just something we knew was the next evolution for capability in Wrangler.”

The Rubicon 392 will be produced as a four-door model only. Half-doors are available to give occupants more of an open-air feel.

The exterior features a heavy-duty raised performance hood. FCA said the grille design delivers greater airflow and cooling of the engine.

A secondary air path within the hood structure cools the engine in case the hood scoop becomes restricted by snow, mud or debris. This allows the vehicle to achieve top speed “even with a fully blocked primary air path.”

The model comes with upgraded frame rails in addition to heavy-duty brakes, Fox high-performance shocks that enable improved off-road performance and 33-inch tires. The Rubicon 392 has a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission.

The Off-Road Plus drive mode, the company said, allows drivers to lock the rear axle at high speeds while in the 4 High gear.

Old Detroit train tracks to be part of new Ford mobility platform

A set of elevated railroad tracks adjacent to the abandoned Detroit train station that Ford Motor Co. is bringing back to life will become a “first-of-its-kind mobility platform” for testing and showcasing emerging technologies, the automaker said.

Ford released more details last week about its plans for Michigan Central Station, which is under renovation to become the heart of a 30-acre campus dedicated to autonomous and electric vehicles. Work on the project, which started about two years ago after Ford bought the dilapidated 13-story station for $90 million, remains on schedule despite the coronavirus pandemic, officials said. The revived station is expected to be finished by the end of 2022.

The elevated tracks, which saw their last passenger train depart in 1988, will be turned into “an open, versatile landscape” for Ford and its partners to work on self-driving vehicles and micromobility initiatives such as e-bikes or e-scooters, the company said.

Ford plans to turn a long-vacant book depository across the street into a mixed-use space with labs and studios. It also envisions a “range of housing options” in the surrounding blocks as well as amenities such as a grocery store and day care.

The automaker says it spent 18 months researching and planning the revival project, including holding more than 100 hours of discussions with key stakeholders from the city and the neighborhoods around the station.