Brian Wolfe, director, Ford North America Motorosports, along with Ford Racing team owners and drivers, hosted members of the media as part of the Lowe’s Motor Speedway annual off-season tour. Below is a transcript of remarks from Wolfe and Fusion Brand Manager, Greg Scott.
BRIAN WOLFE, Director, Ford North America Motorsports – “We really feel strongly that we have a very unified program and a very consistent approach between our teams. Coming in when I did midway through the year, I think I came into a really good situation because the Ford teams were performing really well and really performed well at the end of the year, so for me to come up to speed in understanding what it’s like to be part of the motorsports team, coming into such a good position made my job and my transition very easy.
“I know a year ago this story wasn’t quite so good because coming off the 2007 season things were a little bit rough and we came here and we said we were gonna be championship capable in 2008 and I think our teams and our drivers proved that was the case.
Ford Race Teams
“When we talk about the teams, the Roush Fenway team, there isn’t a manufacturer in the industry that wouldn’t give their eye teeth to have a team of that caliber – the integrity of the team, Jack and the drivers, and crew chiefs and the entire teams that we have out there.
“Yates Racing, another very historic name within Ford’s history. When you think about everything that’s going on, how fantastic is it that their team is really progressing to being stronger in 2009 than they were in 2008. We have the addition of Paul Menard and Bobby Labonte coming on board with an alliance with the Hall of Fame Racing effort, and of course having Travis back is great for us. The Yates team is a really good story. A lot of people are saying it’s really tough, but here’s a team that’s gonna be even stronger in 2009 than 2008.
“The Wood Brothers. How many manufacturers can say they have a partnership for over 50 years with one of the greatest teams in racing. I just can’t be more proud of that and the way that Ford, being a family-owned company, when we set an alliance with somebody it sticks, and it’s just great to have the Wood Brothers.
“I just want to talk about the season they’re (Wood Brothers) are going to run. When sponsorships were getting pretty tight last year and they were chasing sponsors and trying to pull the whole season together, we kind of asked them to take a step back and say, ‘Hey, let’s focus on the competitiveness of the team and your car, and let’s just go out there and worry about that. We as Ford aren’t worried necessarily about the full season.’ Of course, a lot of you remember in the seventies that’s exactly what the Wood Brothers chose to do. Wherever they show up, I’m very confident they’re going to be competitive.
“I also want to talk about Roush Yates Engines. Before coming to this assignment I was in powertrain for about 26 years and I couldn’t be more excited than to have our engine development program, led by Doug Yates. He is just spectacular. I have been involved with consultants from AVL, FEV – some of the very best, most-respected engineering companies in the world and I have to say that Doug doesn’t take second-place to any of those guys. He is spectacular and I’m very, very proud that he and his team are Ford guys and have been.
The Auto Industry
“It would be a little remiss if I didn’t talk a little bit about Ford and the general business and not only about racing. As you know, it’s a pretty tough time for the entire economy and the auto industry is not excluded from that. I want to talk a little bit about the Washington, D.C. hearings and want to make it clear that when Ford went we did not request any funding and we did not take any funding or loans at this time. When Alan Mulally came on board, he put together a very aggressive business plan that will take Ford to a very, very strong position in the industry. Now, of course, with the global economy, that becomes ever more challenging, but we definitely have the right plan in place and we will come out of this stronger than ever. Having such a strong leadership team is key. We also have the right plan in place, not only from a business perspective, but most importantly from a product perspective. Customers want great products. Without great products, we don’t have a company, regardless of how good the leaders are or the individuals within the organization.
“If I can brag for a little bit about Ford and some of the products. Late last year we came out with the 2009 F-150 and, again, it won multiple awards. Next, the 2010 Fusion and Fusion Hybrid – the most fuel-efficient mid-sized sedan in the U.S., and being a powertrain guy, I can’t tell you how proud I am of the Ford team. That car is certified at eight miles to the gallon better in the city than the Camry and two on the highway. It’s just a fantastic engineering effort and when you get inside that vehicle and drive it, you will be totally impressed.
“I’ve been a performance enthusiast my whole life. We just launched a new 2010 Mustang, which will be coming out to dealerships soon, and that car just takes the legend the next step. It’s just a natural progression. The car is fantastic and there are going to be a lot of cool things on that car coming out with its cycle plan over the next few years.
“I’ve got to mention the 2010 Taurus, one of the cars that really helped Ford in a slump in the eighties. I can’t tell you how proud I am for Ford to have such a flagship and leadership vehicle. If you have not been in that vehicle and driven one, you’ve got to do it. That car is just fantastic and really rivals many, many luxury cars from other manufacturers.
“We’ve got great products and I stand behind every one of them. There might have been a time many, many years ago at Ford where I might have cringed when I said, ‘Go buy one,’ for fear that I might get a phone call that someone got a quality issue, but I’ve got to tell you that Ford’s quality is second to none in the industry and being able to recommend a car and stand behind it and say, ‘Call me if you’ve got any problems,’ I don’t get those calls. It’s great.
“Talking a bit more about the racing program. Obviously, Ford has a strong future with the products we have coming. I would like to mention two of the best products coming that will take us into a new era. We have our new Fiesta that is going to launch a year from now followed by an all-new Focus the year after that, so we’ve got some really great small cars coming too, which are really going to be important to our customer base and our society in general with the fuel economy those cars are going to be delivering.
NASCAR as a Marketing Platform
“As part of our strong future, obviously having a strong marketing platform is key and NASCAR is very important to us as part of that marketing platform. But to make that platform a success, we have to have a very strong foundation and the strong foundation is having a championship capable and caliber team and program. I think when you look at our team owners, the integrity that they put behind their teams. The way they select their people around them, I couldn’t be prouder and I guarantee you that any manufacturer would in a heartbeat change lineups with us and we have no intentions of doing that. We’re very proud of everybody we have.
“It also is very important, though, with industry sales down a bit because of the overall economy, that we do deliver our return on investment, so now it’s more important for our fans, for our co-sponsors, to really influence their social circles that when you’re looking for a new car, go out and drive a Ford because you’re going to love it.
The New Ford Engine
“The next thing I’d like to talk about is our new NASCAR engine. This is something that’s really cool to be a part of and to be unveiling it. This engine was designed and developed in conjunction between Ford and Roush Yates Engines. Again, as I said, I’ve been involved in many, many powertrain programs throughout the years and have seen the technology, the CAE tools, the computer-design work, fine development analysis work, CFD work that’s gone behind our production engines and this engine is no different. No stone was left unturned and this engine is going to really be the benchmark for all others to look at going forward.
“There are probably three features I think are important, just to summarize. First, there’s a cooling system within the engine. That’s very key because the cooling system within the engine is part of the overall vehicle system. Having a superior cooling system will allow us to run more tape on the front. It will help our top speeds, it’s going to help our aerodynamics and fuel economy.
“Also, the valvetrain layout with pushrod engines running around the track at 9000 rpm all day long, having an uncompromised valvetrain is critical and this engine is uncompromised for that.
“Last is the cylinder block. There are many, many features within the block that give it superior functional features, but one of the things that the team went above and beyond was the manufacturing capability of that block to ensure that when they’re preparing it to make it race ready, there is much less time involved so it will allow the teams to run more efficiently and running more efficiently is key for everybody. Whether it’s an auto manufacturer or a race team, you’ve got to be efficient so you can really put the money where you need to to succeed.”
GREG SCOTT, Fusion Brand Manager – “A lot of you know that NASCAR has a very important role in how we market Fusion. We launched Fusion in 2005 and it was the first time in 40 years that we were launching both a production vehicle and a race vehicle in the same year. Our challenge was, being a new nameplate, was to strongly associate Fusion with Ford the way Mustang and Ford F-150 are in the customer’s mind. So one of the first things we did was we reached out to NASCAR and it’s 75 million loyal fans. Now four years later, we’ve firmly established Fusion as a Ford product and we’re about to launch the updated 2010 version. As Brian added, we’re adding an all-new Fusion Hybrid and an all-new 3.5-liter Fusion Sport.
“Once again, we’re reaching out to the NASCAR fans to help us launch this next-generation vehicle. A number of you may recall that last November at Homestead we also unveiled the NASCAR race Fusion – the one that will race in the Sprint Cup Series this year. It is based on our 2010 Fusion. We think it looks great. It’s got an unmistakably bold grille and new headlamps in the front. I think it will be real easy to tell which ones are Fusions as they go around the track.
“We also introduced our new Fusion Hybrid. It paced the race to the Ford 400. Showing the Hybrid at Miami was not a casual decision. We actually chose to be there. We wrapped the car in a NASCAR-inspired camouflage and we did this even though the official reveal of the car was four days later at the Los Angeles International Auto Show. We think that chance was worth it because we got a lot of attention for doing that and we got a lot of attention from publications that wouldn’t normally talk about Ford, Fusion and NASCAR. The Green car Journal, Green car.com, and Hybrid.com are all examples of some of the publications that picked up stories on the Fusion Hybrid pacing the race. This was part of what we wanted to do and I’m happy to say that it worked. Showing this car at Homestead was a great kickoff for Fusion Hybrid.
“I’m pleased to tell you that since that time we’ve got EPA certification on our fuel economy. We are now at 41 miles per gallon in the city on our 17.5-gallon tank. That will give you a range of over 700 miles on one tank of gas, which is probably about two tanks of gas for most vehicles. It is the most fuel-efficient mid-size sedan in America today.
“How many of you watched the Congressional Hearings with the automotive people last month? I know in Detroit it probably got more coverage than perhaps the most recent Presidential Inauguration. I heard a lot of comments about the big three, a lot of man on the street comments, and it was disheartening to me because there were people who said, ‘Ford can’t compete with the imports.’ There were those people that said, ‘Ford does not build fuel-efficient vehicles.’ Well, I’m here today to tell you that those people really need to stand up and take notice.
“This Ford Fusion Hybrid, as Brian mentioned, we get eight miles per gallon better than our Toyota competition – the Camry Hybrid – and we even get one mile per gallon better than the Honda Civic Hybrid, which is a much smaller vehicle. So we’ve got some great news to talk about.
“But beyond the Hybrid, last week we got EPA certification on our Fusion gas model that will get 34 miles per gallon on the highway and that makes it the most fuel-efficient gas mid-sized sedan. It’s better than Camry. It’s better than Altima. It’s better than Accord and even better than Malibu. This is clearly a game-changing vehicle for us and we’ve got a lot to talk about.
“Beyond fuel economy, we’ve got award-winning reliability. I encourage you to go pick up a copy of the latest Consumer Reports magazine. We also have highly rated safety features, great driving dynamics and a beautiful design.
“In summary, this is evidence of some of the great product you’re going to start seeing coming out of Ford. Brian Wolfe and I both firmly believe that Ford has a bright future ahead of it and I hope you do, too.
“So with the 2010 Fusion debuting this spring, and our Fusion race car debuting at Daytona, we wanted to start to share some of this excitement with the fans and celebrate the Fusion and NASCAR relationship, so today we’re making an announcement. We are launching a new website today called weraceyouwin.com. At this website, fans can go to learn about our Fusion production car and our race car. More importantly for them, they can register to win a new 2010 Fusion.
“Everytime we win a Sprint Cup race this year, one lucky fan will win a trip to Homestead. Of those fans that go to Homestead, one of them will win a new 2010 Fusion. As a special bonus, the fan that wins the first race will get the winning driver to come to their hometown and test drive the Fusion with them.
“In closing, this is all part of us celebrating our relationship with NASCAR and building excitement around Fusion. We’re very proud of the vehicle we have and we want to remind people that Ford can compete and Ford can win against the very best in the world.”