Ford Atlas Concept and F-150 engineers in Dubai
The next-generation 2015 Ford F-150 is already at the prototype stage, but the new design direction for the big truck has already been hinted at by the Ford Atlas Concept. That futuristic concept will make an appearance at the 2013 Dubai Motor Show next week. But about a month ago, we met some of Ford’s hot-weather testing team who work for the truck division.
Ford’s hot-weather testing regime is probably one of the most comprehensive when it comes to dealing with our unique climate. They started their GCC-specific programme around 5 years ago, and the results should be becoming obvious in their latest models. We already covered some of what goes on, in a drive of the Ford Fusion prototype and other models, but we had a chat with three of their engineering managers to find out a bit more.
We spoke to Ziyad Dallalah, Ford’s Product Development Expert who is semi-permanently based in Dubai, as well as Kelley Clark and Dawn Piechocki, both female Vehicle Engineering Managers from the States who visit the region from time to time as part of the programme.
We’re told Ford acquires all sorts of readings taken during vehicle-testing around the Middle East, including UAE and Saudi Arabia, to see how every component of the car reacts to our beautiful climate of heat, humidity and sand. This is then compared to computer-generated models to see if their initial projections were correct. All data is sent to the R&D centres in the United States, where it is processed with other data collected from around the world.
Changes can even be a running process during a car’s life-cycle, depending on what issues are discovered via customer feedback. For example, the Ford Raptor that you can buy next year will have certain minor changes that make it better suited to our region, when compared to this year’s version. These changes can sometimes be added to previous versions, especially if it is software-related. Also, be aware that GCC-spec Ford models generally have a better cooling package than the stuff grey-imported from the States.
The Ford Atlas Concept has several fancy features, such as LED lighting, hidden cargo ramps, all-around cameras, and even active aerodynamics that deploy shutters and airdams at highway speeds to improve fuel economy. While the engineers were tight-lipped about which of these features will make it to the 2015 Ford F-150, we asked how they battle with company accountants to get new features approved. They say that there is generally less resistance to spending when these features are being developed for a next-generation model, and there are certain financial “checkpoints” which have to be adhered to, in order to approve new features. One major priority is apparently to improve fuel consumption as much as possible.
Ford considers the Middle East region very important, as their SUV/truck sales figures around here are apparently comparable to the States nowadays. Ford is also working with certain GCC governments to eventually introduce fuel economy and emissions standards here. Whether that happens anytime soon remains to be seen, but when regulations do come in place, the next-gen F-150 should have no issues getting past them.