Saturday, 20 December 2014

Ford: No plans for two-cylinder engines

Ford Motor Company has no plans ‘right now’ for two-cylinder engines, according to Barb Samardzich, chief operations officer of Ford of Europe.

Samardzich has come up fast on the inside lane within Ford since she joined the company in 1990, including a number of high profile jobs in the US. Most of her time has been spent in engines and transmissions, so she is well placed to comment about Ford’s European engine strategy.

Talking to Ricardo’s RQ in-house magazine, she noted: “What really drives that limit (two cylinder) at the end of the day is power-to-weight  ratio: before those turbos spool up, when you’re just taking off from the traffic lights or on a hill at high altitude, you have to rely on just the naturally aspirated part that gets you going. That really dictates how long you can go.”

                                               Electric compressors

“Electric compressors to give you an initial boost – that’s something we have been looking at,” she admitted. “Once the turbos spool up you can really start to downsize.”

Ford will be fitting three-cylinder engines to its new Mondeo, but how does this fit in with the car’s premium aspirations?

“There is a set of customers looking to move upmarket; they’re not going to want the three-cylinder, and we won’t be offering that as part of the Vignale, “ said Samardzich. “There is another set of customers that are really interested in fuel consumption and CO2 for their own personal conscience, and the three-cylinder option in our line-up is something they can opt for.”

Ford is investing £500 million at its Dagenham Engine Plant on a new generation of diesel engines. The company used to keep base engine architectures for 20 or 25 years, but now, because keeping up with emissions and CO2 changes, that time has been substantially, according to Samardzich.

                                          New architectures

“We are designing this (new) architecture to be as flexible as possible,” she said,  “so we can add on technologies as they are developed.”

Samardzich claims the new engine for Dagenham really is a “new engine”.

“Obviously they (engineers at the Dunton Engineering Centre, in Essex, UK) took in some of the geometries that would suit the equipment that’s in Dagenham, but this is laying the ground for an architecture that will take us at least 10 years and beyond, and it will be adaptable to new external technologies, such as low-pressure EGR, that are being developed.”

“Any architecture that we put in is flexible right now, it’s not three cylinders or five cylinders, but it’s flexible around displacement and some of the other equipment we may want to out in,” added Samardzich.

Will small gasoline engines take over from small diesel engines?

“That goes back to the question of whether consumers can afford these (emissions) regulations,” commented Samardzich. ”It’s going to be more expensive to emissionize the diesel engine than the gasoline engine, even though you’re going to need particulate filters on some gasoline derivatives.”

“It goes back to the consumers; they go to their dealership and come to a rational decision depending on their pocket, their values and their objectives,” she added. If they see they are going to get better cost of ownership with a downsized gasoline engine versus what they might have been used to they will switch to the gasoline engine.

But surely Ford pitch the bias one way or the other depending on what the company does with its pricing, and whether it chooses to subsidize it diesel engines?

“That’s the million-dollar question – how much of it are you able to or willing to pass on to the consumers, and how much are you going to absorb?” commented Samardzich. “The more you absorb, the more you affect your business. We are a business, and it is important for us to make money, to retain jobs.”

“It is an intricate balance that our marketing teams are working on now as we lay out our programmes that are going to be in play in 2018 and 2019,” she added. “Trying to understand how much pricing we can get for emissions components is clearly one of the hot topics. But clearly diesels are going to be around for quite a while – otherwise we wouldn’t be putting half a billion pounds into Dagenham – and the European market will stay a heavy diesel user despite the changes in the regulations.”

How much room does the One Ford strategy give to accommodate different market requirements in the same model?

“One of the key things we have learnt (with the One Ford process) is that you have to be right upfront  when developing the vehicle so that the vehicle team knows that the vehicle is going to India, South America, Europe and China,” observed Samardzich. “Those four markets are going to have some very different tailoring needed as the consumers are different in those markets. If you are upfront with those wants and needs, then the vehicle teams can manage that very well – it’s much harder to do it retrospectively.”
                                            Ford’s big bet

“We made a big bet with respect to aluminium with our F-150 truck in North America,” admitted Samardzich. “And we’ve learned a lot about that technology, which has been a great choice for us. It is a very complex analysis process (when processing new materials for new models) and our R&D team have a model which can look at all the possible powertrain combinations, and all the possible materials – aluminium, high-strength steel and carbon fibre would be the big three right now.”

“This model is based on price points and tries to optimise what the content should be in the vehicle,” she explained. “So you might start out thinking the next generation vehicle should be made of aluminium but you could end up making it more affordable by using a particular type of engine and maybe aluminium closures- and that type of thing.” 

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