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Brunch with Alan Mulally Part 1

It’s a bittersweet feeling to know that my career as an automotive blogger most likely reached its pinnacle this week at the tender age of 24. “Do you own a Mustang yet?” Ford CEO Alan Mulally asked me as he shook my hand. “Not yet,” I replied. He laughed warmly and moved on to greet another guest. The wake of his charm tossed me into a platter of breakfast croissants. 

I’ve met the Dalai Lama through a family connection and I can honestly say that Alan is taller, has a lush head of hair and a much firmer grasp of the English language. Meeting with him was a thrill, but little did I know before the day was over I would find myself alone in a Ford Taurus SHO with New York Vinnie, filming him from the passenger seat as he blasted us over the Fremont Troll and past a statue of Joseph Stalin, nor that I would be making two appearances on the local news that night. 

The first came in a private meeting room at Daniel’s Broiler in Seattle where a choice selection of local automotive media sat in true roundtable fashion awaiting Alan’s only appearance on the Summer of Taurus 100 city tour. With Ford poised to emerge from the great car debacle leading the domestic auto industry, being invited to share a cup of orange juice with their CEO at an exclusive press event was quite the honor…especially considering I was the youngest guest of the bunch by what appeared to be at least seven years.

I hit the coffee hard. Alan took his seat at the circles’ 12 o’clock position, the wave of caffeine hit, the cameras powered up and:

“Tonight at six, an infantile hack journalist projectile vomits onto Alan Mulally’s lucky sweater.” 

Luckily I was positioned at the 10:45 position and the questions were started one at a time, one per person in a clockwise rotation from high noon (Alan), buying me time to traverse the cresting waves of paranoid dementia. The following are the points of interest captured by my trusty RCA voice recorder before the red hand of destiny came to point at me. I’ve sprinkled in some paraphrasing and background info for good measure: 

“I’ve driven them all and there’s no better car in the world than that Taurus,” Alan said.

Ford is researching and further developing alternative fuel, hybrid and battery technologies, but Alan believes that: 

“The first thing we can do is to keep improving the internal combustion engines. What you see out here in the Taurus is the latest result of that.”

Ford plans on making their new EcoBoost engine found in the 2010 Taurus SHO available in 90% of their vehicle lineup. Using direct injection and two turbochargers, the SHO makes 365 hp but can still return 17mpg city/25mpg highway. That’s V8 power with V6 fuel economy. Alan said that they intend to continuously improve their vehicles no matter what the size and we can expect fuel efficiency to increase every year going forward. 

All-electric vehicles are definitely in the works at Ford, such as an electric version of the Transit Connect, a passenger/cargo van that could potentially replace the E-Series and is set for release next year. An all-electric Focus will make its debut a year later. 

If Ford or any other car maker can bring electric vehicles to the mainstream, Alan believes that creating the infrastructure for charging them is the most important step, but that it's essential we use clean methods to generate the electricity. 

“We’re not going to work CO2 reduction and sustainability if we keep creating the energy dirty (while the car uses it clean)” he said. 

Ford is working to build such an infrastructure in the US, but also overseas in countries with large populations and accelerating economies that Alan said have the chance to “leap frog the internal combustion engine,” because they are still creating their infrastructures. 

“We have really partnered with all the U.S. electric companies, we’re doing the same thing in India, the same thing in China, with the government, because this is a system solution that needs to occur, and Ford is going to continue to be absolutely on the leading edge of being part of figuring out that solution.”

On the car side, he added that we’re going to see more focus on how to reduce electric car and hybrid battery weight and that the batteries may or may not turn out to be lithium-ion. The goal is to fit them into smaller packages, improve their capacities, their functionality in variable temperatures and be safe. 

Alan also spoke of Hydrogen power, but said that to see it come about in a big way we would have to see a tremendous infrastructure created around the US that would involve making new batteries, cost-effective fuel cells and partnering with the government and industry worldwide. 

“Hydrogen is very compelling,” he said, “Because if you have a fuel cell and hydrogen, you send the hydrogen to the fuel cell and you combine it with platinum, out comes electricity, it goes to the battery, and out of the tailpipe comes water. So this is the ultimate in sustainability where you’re not generating any C02.” 

And then an eerie dead spot falls upon the RCA’s recording, it was my turn to ask a question. All I could think to say was… 

Oh! And it looks like we’re out of time on this episode. What question did I ask Alan? Where did the local news spot me (Twice)? What happened on my crazy adventure with New York Vinnie? And what about this new Taurus? The answers to these pressing queries and more on Part 2 of “Brunch with Alan Mulally.” 

Stay tuned.




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