Members of the Ford North American Fleet, Lease, and Remarketing Operations Fleet Advisory Board (FAB) met in Dearborn, Mich., last October for a preview of the automaker’s latest innovations. In addition to a tour of the Dearborn Truck Plant, the meeting agenda included presentations on new products, technologies, safety, and quality advances.

Ford’s Opening Presentations

Joe Pierucci, advanced product strategy manager, presented a look at automotive consumer trends. Alex Miller provided an overview of Ford’s active safety technologies, including Driver Alert (DA), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), and Collision Mitigation by Braking (CMbB).

Odoardo Lopez-Yanes, fleet engineer for Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) Transportation Services found the presentation on safety features particularly valuable. PG&E operates about 12,300 fleet vehicles.

"What caught my attention the most out of the programs is Ford’s Research and Advanced Engineering group and how they are working on improving safety with smart cruise control systems, and advanced collision mitigation systems. These features may someday become industry standards in the same manner that seat belts and airbags are today," said Lopez-Yanes

Advisory board members were also introduced to Ford’s new Vehicle Visibility tool by Project Manager Linda Jakubowski. An all-new Web-based tool that provides a single source of reliable, timely, and accurate order/vehicle status and location information. Vehicle Visibility allows users to search by order number or VIN and view status information including practically real-time transportation updates directly from carriers.

Feedback with Ford

Fleet Advisory Board feedback on the event was positive. Phil Samuelson, purchasing and asset manager for SM&P, felt the interaction and exchange with Ford decision-makers was productive. "It was beneficial to have updates and candid open discussions about industry needs with Ford and with other fleet managers from many different industries," he said. SM&P has approximately 2,300 vehicles, primarily Ford Rangers and F-150s.

Andy Sarkisian, Ford’s safety planning manager, and Tom Artushin, safety strategy manager, sought fleet feedback on three potential future Ford safety technologies:

• Alcolock, a device that detects the presence of alcohol on the driver and disables the vehicle.

• City Safety, an active safety system that supports drivers by mitigating or avoiding rear-end, low-speed accidents that often happen in urban environments or slow moving traffic.

• Reverse Alert, an enhanced back-up sensor system designed to detect pedestrians and initiate braking.

An event highlight was being transported to the Ford Test Lab and taking a tour of the facility. The lab conducts tests on a variety of components such as tires/wheels, speed, material/fabric, certification, and cold weather/hot chamber simulation. Fleet Advisory Board members had the chance to experience first-hand the level of the detail and degree of sophistication that goes into testing and validating new product designs.

"I really enjoyed the test lab tour. I think being an engineer by trade allowed me to understand and fully grasp the complexity and sophistication of the work that takes place at the Ford’s test facility," said Lopez-Yanes.

Ford brand managers also conducted a product review, showcasing prototypes Ford plans to introduce in the next few years. For the 2009 model-year, Ford will launch an all-new F-150 offering expanded features and capabilities.

"Ford does a nice job of presenting topics that are universally of interest to most fleets," said Samuelson.


Touring Dearborn Truck Plant

The final highlight of the three-day board meeting was a tour of Ford’s environmentally-friendly Dearborn Truck Plant. The facility boasts a 454,000-sq.-ft. "living roof," covered with foliage that collects and filters rainfall while protecting the roof’s surface and insulating the building temperature, saving Ford up to 5 percent in heating and cooling costs.

Another of the automaker’s green efforts is the seat fabric in the 2008 Ford Escape and Escape Hybrid made from 100-percent recycled material.

"I would like to thank John Felice and Ford’s North American Fleet, Lease & Remarketing Operations for the time and effort they put into the fleet advisory meeting," said Lopez-Yanes.

"Helping fleet customers understand some of the challenges the Ford company faces, involving fleet customers early in the development of new programs and products, providing the opportunity and taking the time to listen to fleet customer’s feedback just makes good business sense. Before delighting customers with their products, a company must first listen to the voice of the customer," Lopez-Yanes concluded.