Auto Outlook: Vintage Model A back in Bill Ford's garage

Dec. 16, 2012 at 5:30 AM
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A rare 1903 Ford Model A that's one of the oldest surviving cars made by the company was purchased at auction by Bill Ford Jr.

The great-grandson of Ford Motor Co. founder Henry Ford bid $264,000 for the 109-year-old Model A Rear Entry Tonneau in October and plans to show the car during a year-long celebration of the sesquicentennial of Henry Ford's birth July 30, 1863. Henry Ford died in 1947 at the age of 83.

In its first year in business, the fledgling Ford Motor sold two-cylinder, 100-cubic inch, 8-horsepower Model A motor cars from July 1903 to March 1904 with an original list price of $850. The open-air horseless carriage's top speed was an astounding (for the time) 30 mph.

"The timing was perfect to bring this key part of Ford heritage back to the family as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of my great-grandfather's birth and his vision to improve people's lives by making cars affordable for the average family," Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Co., said in a statement.

At $264,000, the vintage Model A was a bargain of sorts. It was sold for a bid of $630,000 in 2007 by RM Auctions in Hershey, Pa.

The car, whose engine was rebuilt in 2007, has all of its original features and completed the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in 2003 when it turned 100 years old.

"The Model A helped keep our company going during a difficult time and enabled my great-grandfather to continue pursuing his vision of putting the world on wheels," Bill Ford said. "We look forward to carrying that same spirit of innovation forward as we develop new technologies for safer, cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles."

Ford has software fix for recalled cars

Ford dealers are receiving a software upgrade to resolve a problem with severe overheating that prompted the recall of nearly 90,000 2013 Ford Escapes and Fusions.

The overheating issue affects only vehicles with 1.6-liter EcoBoost, 4-cylinder engines that were recalled Nov. 30. Ford said 12 fires in Escapes and one in a Fusion were related to the problem caused by a loss of coolant pressure necessary for proper circulation.

Ford recalled 73,320 Escape SE and SEL models and 15,833 Fusions with the turbocharged EcoBoost engine, all sold in North America.

Some drivers who experienced engine fires heard a warning chime and had a red light and others said the message "Engine Power Reduced to Lower Temps" or "Engine over temp, stop safely," appeared in the instrument cluster.

Ford Group Vice President for Global Production Development Raj Nair said the software upgrade would electronically control some of the valves to better manage engine temperatures.

"That will resolve the issue," Nair told The New York Times.

The upgrade will take about four hours and the Los Angeles Times says dealers will arrange for loaner vehicles for owners at no charge.

The redesigned Escape has had four recalls since it went on sale in June.

EPA to investigate Ford hybrid mileage claims

Does the new Ford C-MAX hybrid really get 47 miles per gallon?

Consumer Reports magazine says its tests didn't get that kind of mileage and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to review Ford's fuel efficiency advertising.

CR said during its testing a C-MAX only got 37 mpg overall, 35 mpg in city driving and 38 mpg on the highway. The Ford Fusion, which advertises the same 47 mpg overall, got 39 mpg in combined city/highway driving, 35 mpg city and 41 mpg highway.

"These two vehicles have the largest discrepancy between our overall-mpg results and the estimates published by the EPA that we've seen among any current models," Consumer Reports said in a statement.

The EPA said it would "look at the [CR] report and data."

Ford said fuel economy of hybrids varies with driving styles and conditions. The C-MAX can go 62 mph on batteries only before its 4-cylinder gasoline engine starts to recharge the battery.

If the car is driven over 62 mph it has to use gasoline to maintain electric power, reducing mileage, The Detroit News said.

"Early C-MAX hybrid and Fusion hybrid customers praise the vehicles and report a range of fuel economy figures, including some reports above 47 mpg," a Ford spokesman said. "This reinforces the fact that driving styles, driving conditions and other factors can cause mileage to vary."

Average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the United States was 24.1 mpg in November, the same as the record set in October, the University of Michigan Eco-Driving Index found. That's a 20 percent [4 mpg] improvement in new vehicle fuel economy from October 2007 when the survey began.

Honda developing a smaller crossover SUV

Honda Motor Co. plans to show a small crossover SUV concept vehicle at next month's North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

One of Honda's top sellers is the CR-V crossover SUV based on the Honda Civic platform. The concept SUV -- which would be smaller and cheaper -- would be based on the same platform as the subcompact Honda Fit.

Honda calls it an "urban SUV concept."

Dream cars, dream customers

While drivers may lust after dream cars, automakers are looking for their dream customers.

A market analysis by credit reporting giant Experian Automotive in Schaumburg, Ill., found the average amount financed for a new-vehicle loan rose by $90 to $25,963 in the third quarter. The average credit score of a new-car customer was 755, down from 763 a year earlier.

Not surprisingly, buyers of luxury brands like Volvo, Lexus and Acura had the highest credit scores, of 818, 816 and 813, respectively, followed by imports Audi, Infiniti, Jaguar and Porsche, all 810.

The brand selling to buyers with the lowest credit scores was Mitsubishi, whose average shopper had a credit score of 694, followed by Suzuki at 704.

Suzuki, which is leaving the U.S. market in 2013, has sold about 23,000 vehicles in the United States this year. Chevrolet, Fiat, Dodge, Chrysler and Ram buyers also were among those with lower credit scores.

Chrysler Group customers had an average credit score of 718, the third lowest in the survey, followed by Kia, at 721.

Experian Automotive said sub-prime loans (riskier loans with higher interest rates) for new vehicles rose 3 percent in the third quarter and made up a quarter of all new car loans.

"Expanding loans to lower-risk tiers opens the market for more car shoppers while an increase in leasing means it is easier for consumers to get more vehicle for a lower monthly payment," Melinda Zabritski, director of automotive credit at Experian Automotive, said in a release.

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