Where do you want to go?
When I started this blog almost 4 years ago I had no idea of the places it would take me, both figuratively and literally. I started writing simply because it’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing and because as a new mother I desperately needed something that was just for me. But the blog slowly evolved into something slightly different than I had originally envisioned for it. And that’s not a bad thing. At all. It has given me the opportunity to meet some awesome people and visit some amazing places, some places I never dreamed I would visit.
Last Sunday I was all packed up and in a cab at 4:30 am as I started the first leg of my latest journey. Several hours, and a couple of plane rides later, and I made it to my destination – Detroit. I’ll admit that Detroit has never really been on my radar as a”must” place to go, but I was more than a little excited about this trip. Not only was I given the opportunity to attend the North American International Auto Show but, thanks to Ford Canada, I was going to be spending the better part of the next three days behind the Blue Oval.
A little bit of history.
Our first official event was dinner at the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant.
The Piquette Plant is the birthplace of the Ford Model T. It is, not surprisingly, recognized as one of the most significant automotive heritage sites in the world. It was built in 1904 and the first 12,000 Model Ts (along with models B, C, F, K, N, R & S) were built at this plant. The history in this old building is amazing and in 5 short years it allowed Henry Ford and The Ford Motor Company to become the leader in the automotive industry in North America.
It was an amazing evening of history, food and connecting with the rest of the Ford digital influencers.
The next morning we were one again up early (although not 4:30 am again thankfully), fed and put on the bus to the Joe Louis Arena for the day’s events. First up, the Ford news conference. As much fun as the whole trip was, the news conference was easily the most thrilling as we were present for the unveiling of three amazing Ford vehicles…
The Raptor first came on the market in 2010 and was a shocking addition to the already popular F150 line up. The overall image of the Raptor hasn’t changed all that much over the years, some subtle finessing allowing it to look even more muscle bound, sturdy and sexy. This is the kind of truck that if a young man arrives in it to pick up your teenage daughter you are going to be flooded with a mixture of fear and respect.
So then what has changed with the Raptor, making it worthy of a grand appearance at an international auto show? Well to start, it weighs about 500 pounds less than before thanks to military grade, high strength aluminum alloy in the bed and box. And there’s no surprise that you can find an example of the EcoBoost Engine that we’ve come to expect over the years. This one is the all new high output 3.5L EcoBoost, giving the 2017 Raptor more torque and horsepower than ever.
Billed as the most track ready, road going production Mustang ever built, you know this is the car dreams are made of. The classic Mustang styling that is unmistakable along with some remarkable performance enhancing advancements made this one of the darlings of the show (I say one of because wait until you see what’s next). The 2016 Shelby GT350R features the first ever production V8 with a flat-plane crankshaft. It’s also the first vehicle ever produced with standard carbon fibre wheels. The GT350R also has stripped out some non essentials to make it a whopping 130 pounds lighter than the non R model. Gone is the air conditioning, radio and trunk carpet. So when you factor in the light weight features (or lack thereof) and add in the 5.2 L V8 with over 600 horsepower and 400 pounds of torque you get a beautiful, growling vehicle that turns heads on the street and blows away anything in its class on the track.
And this, my friends, is the car that stole the show. Not just the Ford press conference but the entire show. When the GT ripped onto the stage there was a collective gasp. Trying to get close to it while it was on the stage was a feat reminiscent of the great Furby fiasco I went through back in 1998. But it’s impossible to blame people for wanting to get close this vehicle. Just look at her. She is an aerodynamic, stylish powerhouse. The 2016 GT features a 3.5 L twin turbocharged V6 engine that can produce more than 600 horsepower and a 7 speed dual clutch transmission as well as carbon fibre construction giving the new GT one of the best power to weight ratios of any production car.
The Focus (no not the car)
Do you see some commonalities amongst these vehicles? I mean there is the glaring obvious – the stunning blue they all share. Liquid Blue. It’s shiny, sexy and sophisticated. And from what I’ve heard it’s not for you so don’t go getting your hopes up that you can pick up your next Ford in it. Besides colour the common theme that we saw run through all of the new Ford vehicles was light weight power and performance with tons of carbon fibre and EcoBoost engines. At first glance it seems to be a departure from Ford’s recent focus on fuel efficiency and advances in driver focused technology. But in reality it wasn’t really a huge leap from fuel efficient, family friendly hybrids and electric cars to the unveiling of this performance line up. At the heart of all the (well deserved) hype was innovation and technology that still pushes the eco-friendly bar ahead. And it was actually refreshing to see Ford step up and show us that all this green innovation hasn’t made them lose their muscle.
The Other Stuff
Of course the line up of performance cars that Ford brought to the table this year was the highlight. How could it not be? People are still talking about it. But as one would expect from Ford there was still lots of discussion on innovation, customer experience, trends and the future of the brand and the industry. We heard a lot of talk about the current and expected habits of two generations – the Millennials (Generation Y) who are big players in the consumer market right now and the Z Generation who are just starting and soon to be auto buyers. Ford has shown remarkable strides over recent years by focusing on the desires and needs of the Y Generation. While the Millennials are still huge players in the market, Generation Z is coming of age and there are some big differences between the two. While Gen Y was the first really “connected” generation they really did grow along side that technology. The next generation was born into it. Their expectations are different and their attitudes are different. They are more likely to take risks and are less afraid of failure because they have begun to remove the stigma that comes with it. Another hint that Ford is starting to cater to the Generation Z group is the announcement at NAIAS that the new Ford GT will be the cover girl of the Forza Motorsport 6 for the Xbox One and the GT along with the Raptor and GT350R will all be part of the new game.
Until we meet again
This was a fast, fun and fabulous three days. I am forever grateful to Ford Canada for giving me this opportunity. Every day was filled with adventure, information and, did I mention fun? I came home with a greater understanding of the hard work and vast knowledge that makes a brand like Ford continue to be a leader. With strong roots in the past and the traditions that Henry Ford built the company on but an amazing eye and pulse on the future we can continue to expect new, innovative and brilliant things to come from Ford.
The group of digital media influencers that Ford assembled for this event was stellar. We meshed so well as a team and I know that I learned a lot from all of them. Some were familiar faces and many were new. I hope to see them all again one day.
I have to admit I had a bit of a rough trip home. With delayed flights, sprints to gates in an effort to not miss connections I wasn’t sure I was going to make it home the day I left. But in the end I did make it home, and not all that late either. I wish I could say my luggage made it home with me, but it did show up, all intact, eventually.
Although Ford covered my travel and accommodations for this event I was not compensated in any other way and every awesome opinion expressed here is completely my own.