In late April, the Ford Motor Company made a surprising announcement in relation to the future of its North American operations. Over the next few years, Ford will stop manufacturing vehicles such as the C-Max, Focus, Fusion, Fiesta, and Taurus. According to press releases and conference calls to investors, Ford executives intend to shift away from small cars in order to concentrate on light trucks and SUVs. The only two models that will still be manufactured for the North American market will be the legendary Mustang and a new type of crossover vehicle that will be marketed as the “Focus Active”. Light duty truck and SUV fuel efficiency has improved so much over the last decade that they are now the more preferred vehicles.
Ford executives explained that the North American vehicle market is changing at a frantic pace. Also that current consumer demand is heavily concentrated on the SUV and light truck segments. With that said, that it does not make sense for the company to pursue the dwindling economy, compact and sedan markets. What this means for owners of specialty Ford models such as the Focus RS is that they now own vehicles destined to become rare classics. Car buyers who may have been considering purchasing a Taurus may want to hurry. The final models are just a few years away from becoming part of automotive history.
To say that auto industry analysts were shocked by Ford’s announcement would be an understatement. In fact, they were blown out of the water. What is interesting to note is that Ford also announced that hybrid engine options will be added to classic models such as the Explorer and the F-150. Moreover, the first Ford plug-in electric will the Mach 1, a new type of SUV.
• SUV Fuel Efficiency & Demand •
There is no question that American drivers have fallen in love with SUVs all over again. When gasoline prices feel from about $3.60 to less than $2.00 between 2014 and 2015, car buyers in the United States took advantage of the economic recovery to purchase SUVs. Another factor adding to the current demand for SUVs and light trucks is that they have become substantially more fuel-efficient over the years, thus eliminating some of the demand for small cars.
Some analysts believe that Ford is taking an unnecessary gamble with its aforementioned approach to future manufacturing, particularly at a time when Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is actively engaged in manipulating distribution to boost prices. Should OPEC be successful in driving fuel prices up to $4.00 per gallon in the next few years, Ford’s current plans could backfire, especially if fuel prices increase before hybrid SUVs and trucks roll out of the manufacturing plants.
• The Importance of Auto Maintenance & Fuel Efficiency •
SUVs have effectively replaced minivans, and it is easy to understand why so many drivers are attracted to them. In late 2016, the Triangle Business Journal reported that SUV and light truck sales in North Carolina had increased by 19 percent on a year-over-year basis, and quite a few of these sales were among wealthy buyers who gravitate towards luxury brands.
Although SUVs these days get far better gas mileage than they did 20 years ago, it is important to remember that these vehicles are heavier than all passenger cars. Even full-sized sedans and limousines are lighter than the average SUV, and this is generally detrimental to fuel efficiency.
Heavier vehicles are bound to be less fuel efficient, particularly if they are powered by high-capacity engines. One SUV that boasts good gas mileage these days is the Ford Explorer with the 2.0L engine, but even this vehicle is not as fuel efficient as the sporty Focus RS, and it mostly boils down to weight.
A rule of thumb with regard to vehicle weight and gas mileage is that heavier loads will reduce fuel efficiency at the rate of two percent. An Uber driver who uses her Ford Escape to take three passengers with suitcases to the Raleigh-Durham airport will experience less fuel efficiency than if she drives with just one passenger and no luggage.
There is more to fuel efficiency than power plants and vehicle weights. Proper and timely maintenance is crucial to maintaining a fuel efficient car or truck, this extends to all vehicles. Not just SUV fuel efficiency. When the alternator is forced to work harder because the cables are corroded, you can expect that more fuel will be consumed. A dirty air filter will have a similar effect, and so will a faulty oxygen sensor and worn spark plugs.
Once your car registers a certain amount of miles on the odometer, technicians will start using a different grade of engine oil not only to protect moving parts but also to maintain fuel efficiency. Even worn-out drive train parts such as shocks, axles and springs may create unnecessary drag that will lower your gas mileage.