DEARBORN - Nearly 100 leading decision-makers within the company had an opportunity to experience some of the latest driving technologies developed by Ford’s Research & Advanced Engineering (R&A) team at the 2011 Lincoln R&A Technology Event held recently at the Dearborn Development Center.
The three-day ride-and-drive event was designed to give employees from key areas like Product Planning, Marketing and Engineering a chance to experience new systems and features firsthand and then evaluate their potential for use in future Lincoln products.
“You can talk about the technologies in a conference room situation, but in a 10- or 15-minute demonstration in a vehicle you can give people a real-life customer experience,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering. “The feedback we gain from the drive program will help us evaluate and prioritize which technologies should be implemented in which Lincoln vehicles and in what time frame.”
Technology featured at the event came from different departments, such as Driver-Assistance & Active Safety, Vehicle Dynamics, Body and Powertrain. There were approximately 40 vehicles on-site. Some featured new technology currently available only in Europe. Others included technology still in the prototype stage of development. There also were vehicles on hand to demonstrate systems and features currently available from competing auto manufacturers.
Each participant in the program had the opportunity to drive 14 differently-equipped vehicles with a representative from R&A in the passenger seat along to provide instruction and information. At the end of each demonstration, participants answered 10 questions about the technology, such as: How relevant is this technology for Lincoln? What price do you think customers would be willing to pay for this technology? How soon would you like to see this technology in the vehicles?
“We started doing drive events like this in Europe four years ago where we got people together from Marketing, Product Planning and other programs together to experience the technology for themselves and realize how the customer would experience it, and it really helped get some of the new technologies into Ford products quicker,” said Pim van der Jagt, managing director, Ford Research Center Aachen, and executive technical leader, Global Vehicle Dynamics.
“One vehicle program can’t afford all the technologies so you really need to balance your vehicle – decide which features are most important – and this type of program really helps that discussion,” he said.
The Dearborn ride-and-drive was modeled after a similar event held earlier this year on the Ford Eureopean test track in Lommel, Belgium which was organized by the Aachen team. Members from the European research team in Aachen, Germany worked together with their counterparts in North America to present the program in the U.S.
“By working globally you can bring the best of the best together and really start to create the best technology strategy, which will ultimately provide the best experience for our customers,” said Mascarenas.
Once all the feedback from the program is organized, the R&A team will have a clear picture of which technologies have the greatest potential for implementation in future Lincoln vehicles.
“From there we will go to work with our Marketing colleagues to work on a business case because that for us is the most important thing,” said Walter Pijls, Portfolio Planning, Global Vehicle Dynamics, Driver Assistance and Active Safety, and one of the organizers of the event. “We really want to get the value and feedback out of the program and use that as a point for decision-making.”
Carey White, who works in Lincoln Product Marketing, participated in the program. He says he’s looking forward to reviewing the data culled from the event.
“At the end of the day I think we’re going to have a good idea about some things we’re going to want, some things we’re going to want to investigate further and some things that will definitely be must-haves to compete in the future luxury market,” he said.
White says what he liked most about the program was that it enable him to experience a number of technologies all in one day at one location.
“I’ve done a lot of one-off demos but this has been a lot more structured and I think it’s a lot more efficient to come to the test track and spend a whole day doing this,” he said. “We’ll get feedback on a lot more technologies in a shorter amount of time.”
Global R&A Lincoln Technology Drive Team