We took Presidents’ Day off yesterday so we could spend the day on Midjourney trying to make the perfect AI-generated image of Teddy Roosevelt driving a Mark III Toyota Supra. Unfortunately, this request caused a glitch in the Matrix and proved once and for all that we are living in a simulation. Still, a life lived in a simulation is still a life, and for us, that means the car news must be delivered unto you, our beloved readers and (hopefully) subscribers.
Today, we’re talking about the latest round of Ford quality woes; the updated Cadillac XT4; and lowriders. It should be a good mix of stuff to ease you back into your work week.
Some F-150 Lightnings May Have Faulty Batteries
Ford, and its costly quality challenges, were both back in the news last week after a report emerged that an F-150 Lightning’s battery caught fire during an inspection. Now, Phoebe Wall Howard at the Detroit Free Press reports that another, unrelated issue may affect as many as 100 trucks already in customer hands, and it actually makes a decent case for connected car technology.
To be clear, again: this is not the fire issue. It’s a different thing, that could prevent the pickup truck from shifting into “drive ” or it could cause the truck to lose power during operation. From the Free Press:
“We monitor vehicle data to help ensure our vehicles are performing as expected in the field. We have identified that (in) some vehicles, their high-voltage battery is not performing as intended, which could result in performance degradation,” Martin Gunsberg told the Detroit Free Press.
The automaker is aware of an estimated 100 vehicles potentially affected but Ford cannot definitively say how many more may have a faulty battery because these issues are detected through vehicle data monitoring, Gunsberg said.
Customer vehicles are linked through cellular connectivity to Ford, as designed, and that signals data that detects emerging problems so they may be addressed without delay, Ford CEO Jim Farley has said.
“In this case, a driver may receive an alert in the vehicle through a message display system on the dashboard, and the vehicle will begin to reduce power to allow the customer to drive to a safe location,” Gunsberg said.
CNBC, which first reported this story, notes it’s not a recall yet but a “customer service action” where they’re still investigating things:
“This not a safety recall. This is a proactive investigation to help prevent customers of the identified vehicles from experiencing a degradation in battery performance and to obtain field parts for evaluation,” Ford spokesman Marty Gunsberg said in an emailed statement.
If you own a Lightning, I suppose keep an eye on this matter and bring the vehicle to your dealer if you experience the problem. The electric truck has been a groundbreaking product for Ford, but not without its quality issues so far.
Ford’s Quality Cleanup
Amid all of last week’s Ford news—which was not the sort of image the Dearborn automaker wants to project—I wrote about the company’s challenges with cleaning up its quality and reliability while also investing heavily in EV and battery tech for The Verge. The thing is, I do believe Ford’s working on this. Specifically, CEO Jim Farley is.
Farley has been incredibly candid about the cost issues involved with recalls and the challenges of pivoting to EVs while fixing manufacturing issues, more so than your average meat-sack CEO tends to. Maybe it’s his personality; maybe it’s because he knows that botched launches and quality problems have helped cost past Ford CEOs their jobs. Either way, everyone I have spoken to inside the automaker swears up and down that things are different now and that the culture’s shifted.
The proof will be in the cars themselves, of course, and it could take years before we see the results of whatever changes are being pushed now. But here’s Automotive News on how Farley is trying to execute this plan:
Cadillac XT4 Gets A Lyriq-al Upgrade
The Cadillac XT4 suits up for battle in one of the fastest-growing, most competitive segments in the U.S.: small luxury SUVs. It faces more headwinds there than, say, its big brother the Cadillac Escalade in the full-size SUV class, though. Since its introduction for 2019, the original XT4 is far from class-leading, but know this—that really pisses off leadership at Cadillac. Global Cadillac Vice President Rory Harvey is not happy with third place in the segment, and wants a higher spot on the podium.
But let’s be realistic here. While the Escalade is a storied nameplate that’s built a legacy of dominance over its more than two decades of service, the XT4 is much newer, with a harder-to-remember name. It’s also now dated, so General Motors is giving the crossover a refresh for the 2024 model year to try to boost its sales over the next decade as Cadillac transitions to an all-electric brand by 2030.
One thing it doesn’t get yet is Super Cruise, GM’s semi-autonomous driving assistance system that’s generally one of the better examples out there. That’s a shame, but it may have pushed the price tag beyond what was considered tenable.
Let ‘Em Cruise
Lowriders don’t get a ton of coverage in the enthusiast press, but they should; they’re an extremely unique and important part of American car culture. But did you know that several cities in California—the heart and soul of this country’s car culture—actually banned lowrider cruising decades ago? I did not.
Thankfully, that may soon be changing, reports the Wall Street Journal:
Beginning in the 1980s, San Jose and many other cities passed ordinances that banned cruising on favorite lowriding streets, after some were disrupted by shootings and other violence.
Now lowriding is becoming legalized again in California, amid protests by enthusiasts that they have been unfairly targeted on racial grounds. San Jose and Sacramento in 2022 repealed their bans. Earlier this month, a bill introduced in the state assembly would repeal remaining bans statewide, by stripping away a 1988 California law that allowed local governments to pass anticruising ordinances. Such ordinances can be applied to cruisers as well as lowered cars.
That bill was co-authored by Assemblyman David Alvarez, who represents the San Diego suburb of National City, where the city lifted a cruising ban last year—and then restored it after unexpectedly large crowds attended a sanctioned event.
“We feel this ordinance is targeting the Black and brown community,” said Jovita Arellano, president of United Lowrider Coalition, a San Diego group formed in 2020 to seek the repeal. The bans don’t target more upscale areas frequented by high-performance cars, she added. “The hot rods don’t get pulled over.”
That story’s worth a read in full, but here’s what happened when the bans were put in place in the 1980s:
San Jose banned cruising in 1986. Lowriders continued to ride, but not in big groups, and always with the fear they might get pulled over by police for an infraction, said Doug Vigil, 59 years old and a member of a lowrider club started in the 1970s called New Style.
“They would look for problems to give you a ticket,” Mr. Vigil said.
Kudos to the Journal for highlighting this story and the bias-related problems tied to the original bans. Let these dudes (and women) cruise. I figure these days, the cops have bigger problems with sideshows, street racing and street takeovers, and I have to assume the lowrider crowd is significantly more chill than those folks are.
Are you deterred by Ford’s quality woes in recent years? Would they put you off buying from the Blue Oval brand?
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Ford quality issues? IT”S IN THE NAME
I’ve owned two Fords too many: A 1979 Taunus petrol station wagon and a 1991 Escort diesel station wagon. Yes, ancient cheap old beaters, not really comparable to anything modern.. But if I need some boring back and forth not very loved car nowadays, I’ll just buy something Japanese or Korean.
My first Ford was a ’93 Escort lx wagon 5 speed.
It was about 7 years old, and had had one engine replacement already.
The back was a bit bouncy and I knew it needed the rear brakes refreshed bit for $300 it seemed OK for a winter beater.
When I dug into it, I found that rust had separated most of both rear strut towers from the body, with a 1 inch strip of material missing from each tower.
No worries, I cleaned it up a bit and stitch welded some sheet metal to laminate each tower, better than new.
Then I went to do the rear brakes. I picked up the parts from the Ford dealer I worked at, and my friend there asked me if I needed new Mac strut spring as well. I was like why would I want to upgrade the springs? He let me know that the rear springs were good for 20,000km on these. So new rear springs every 3rd oil change. Mine were both snapped.
Once I got everything fixed up, the lights died. I found a bunch of blue rotted wiring under the dash, and I fixed it all up.
Went to take it for a safety, the lights died again. This is when my buddy told me of the “blue death,” where Fords of this age would have all their wiring turn to blue powder.
I gave up.
Later, my neighbor bought a 2 year old Focus SVT. He brought it home and said it seemed like there was oil in the footwell.
I checked it out. There was a plastic clutch master cylinder attached to the pedal, which would squirter oil onto the floor with each pedal application.
After the first 2 years, the car just sat in the driveway with either a failed transmission or a failed engine until he gave up.
These weren’t the worst offenders though. A few people I know bought Escapes in the early 2010s for about $40k, more than a RAV4. At 5 to 6 years all were experiencing rust perforation and electrical and mechanical faults of various types.
Many of these issues couldn’t be fixed by the dealer.
Now, I think 5.0 Mustangs and Fiesta STs are pretty tempting, but purchasing a Ford still remains to be a very poor life decision.
I will say this:
While the amount of recalls and quality woes they’ve had is unfathomable, I’ve genuinely loved some products they’ve made in recent years.
Mainly, the S550 Mustang GT350/R and it’s 5.2L of Flat Plane Crank fury. Then followed by the Raptor, because of how obnoxious and awesome it is. Also including the Focus and Fiesta ST siblings (also the RS version of the Focus). Some gems from the last decade. Also, speaking objectively, I believe the Bronco and even the Maverick are nice offerings.
That said, the point of my comment is not to say that we should ignore those quality issues and woes that they’re facing, because it’s shocking indeed. However, Farley’s ignorance is hindering Ford from making strides to better themselves otherwise. This just isn’t how leadership ought to be. Ford does have some nice ideas, but that shouldn’t have to mean that quality ends up on the back burner, especially seeing another comment that mentioned how Farley used to be at Toyota.
You need to watch Sandy Munro’s tear down of the Mustang Mach E.
There are so many potential points of failure in redundant hoses, couplings and fittings that it was almost impossible for his team to tally.
Truthfully, as a former Ford engineer I think Sandy was embarrassed for Ford.
As much as I despise Elon Musk’s values, ethics and his contempt for people in general, his decision to engineer and produce gargantuan one piece castings will revolutionize automobile manufacturing.
In fact, future automotive historians may cite this innovation as his most important contribution to the automotive industry even beyond his prescient shift to EVs.
I work for Ford and currently own 2. My lease on one ends in May and I will be purchasing it at that time. I have zero faith in Ford quality right now. I want a new Ranger when the other is up in February of next year but a lot needs to change between now and then for me to not buy that one too. I have faith in the MAP launch team (that’s where I work), but I don’t have faith in the engineers to give us a product to build at a high quality level. The Bronco launch is still very fresh on my mind.
Making cars is hard. Can I trust the support network to support me in case of trouble? That network’s even more likely to come into play in the case of an all-new model. Is Ford debuting more new models with more new tech than other automakers? Is that why Ford’s having more quality problems? Making new cars is even harder than making old cars.
Grew up in a Ford household, and old habits die hard, despite the fact they definitely should have. Daily’d a ’97 Econoline conversion van for 7 years as my first ride. Thing was mechanically cursed, and it was impossible to separate what was due to age and prior owner(s), what was due to being a conversion, and what was intrinsic to the design. But it gave me far too much trouble to keep or else I would have, because damn its interior did its best to balance out the rest.
If I was in a position to get an EV I’d consider the Mustang Mach-E, or at least I’d be interested enough to research it further then.
If it weren’t for uncertainties in future gas prices, I’d love another conversion van, but I’m sure it’s gonna be another 15-20 years before used electric conversion vans are even remotely affordable used. But, when it comes to it, I’d probably still strongly consider an E-Transit…mainly because the van market is so limited here to begin with.
It’s funny how Farley didn’t care about quality until it started to hit the bottom line. Ford has had persistent quality issues for a long time now and they got ignored. The chickens have finally come home to roost and now they’re a bit screwed. They have massive legacy warranty costs and a bad quality culture, which is not going to change overnight no matter what he says.
Currently, Ford’s most desirable products (Maverick Hybrid, Bronco, hell you can’t even seem to get certain trims of the Bronco Sport without a dealer selling it out from under you) are about as hard to get your hands on as a Cybertruck. So even if I could overlook the quality issues, it wouldn’t matter, because I can’t get anyone to sell me one.
first US car was wood-panel Escort station wagon, second was an Econoline, currently in a Sport Trac 2004 that’s been solidly reliable for the last 6 years going from 98k to 165k.
I’d buy a Maverick Hybrid if I could, but Ford doesn’t want to sell me one..
I own 2 Fords, but the younger is more than a decade old. Love ’em both.
Ford seems to have jettisoned its previous “hang onto a model for a long time and steadily if unglamorously improve it” mojo in favor of instant flash and media attention.
The old way was what made me a Ford man, but now I dunno. That and I like cars, so Ford doesn’t sell anything for me now.
I gave up on Ford in 2011 when they dropped the Ranger.
If I want a Farley telling me about quality auto parts I’ll watch Tommy Boy.
Ford doesn’t make anything I want anymore,
no matter how well they check the specs on their rotary girders.
I feel like there’s a good parallel joke about warranties from Tommy Boy that applies to Fords too.
Customer: “There’s no guarantee on the box.”
Farley: “If you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed I will.”
I’d consider a Ford if it had a killer feature not available elsewhere. The local dealer isn’t too far away for any issues either. I’m not a fan of their spaghetti style wiring or vacuum tubing routing. An extra mile of wiring in the Mach E is understandable with that philosophy.
Ford seems to have more inexplicable quality problems than other manufacturers. They’ve got their share of badly designed or too cheap parts, sure, but they’re the only manufacturer I can think of that supplied a test car to Car and Driver that had seats from two different trim levels installed. I talked to a guy at an autocross once whose new Mustang’s driveshaft fell out of the rear diff as he was leaving the dealer. Put the wrong head gaskets on Focus RS’s? Bizarre.
I’d buy a Ford if they sold something that I want, but I don’t want a truck or SUV so….
I support more lowrider content. There’s a lot of work that goes into a lowrider that doesn’t get the respect it should imo. Some of the paint jobs are insanely intricate.