By John Scott Lewinski
It was an unusual week of seemingly mismatched news from Ford Motor Company.
On the one hand, they announced their entry into the NASCAR Sprint Cup with the 2013 Ford Fusion Redesign and its debut at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Meanwhile, Ford’s engineers and green technology experts back at their HQ in Dearborn, Mich. announced the inclusion of a new plant that will go into the company’s reusable materials supply.
For the race fans, we go to Charlotte first. Ford used NASCAR’s media week leading up the Daytona 500 to unveil the Fusion. According to Jamie Allison, Director of Ford Racing, the intent of their designers was to mirror the 2013 Fusion production car and return Ford’s brand identity to the track.
”We wanted Fusion to be the car that helped return ‘stock car’ to NASCAR,” Allison said. “I think fans, when they see the car, are just going to smile and cheer. It is going to reengage them with the sport and make the sport better because there is just something natural about seeing race cars that look like cars in their driveways.”
This is the third time Ford introduced both production and NASCAR versions of a new model. The first dual launch came in 1968, with the Ford Torino. The second time came in 2006, when Ford sent out a racing version of the Fusion for the first time.
“This is a seminal moment in the sport when we had a chance to get it right and make sure the race cars are race versions of street cars,” Allison added. “And I am proud because I believe we have accomplished just that.”
According to Allison, designers addressed the overall proportion of the race car to reflect proportions found in the production Fusion, including “an identifiable front end grill with the distinctive look of a Ford.”
Allison reported that the new NASCAR Fusion entries will be tested throughout the 2012 campaign in preparation for their racing debut at the 2013 Daytona 500 in February of next year.
Away from the track on the eco design front, Ford announced the introduction of the little known Kenaf plant into the newly redesigned Ford Escape.
Ford’s research tells the uninitiated driver that Kenaf is “a tropical plant related to cotton and okra plants used to replace oil-based materials in the doors of the all-new Ford Escape. It’s used in cosmetics, and kenaf fiber is an alternative to wood for paper and cardboard. You can even eat it, but I don’t think you can substitute your car door for lunch.
The Dearborn engineers use the eco-friendly material should offset 300,000 pounds of oil-based resin annually in North America. That should be good news to those of you worried about the whole oil-based resign crisis sweeping the country.
Using Kenaf reduces the weight of a Ford Escape door by 25 percent and improves fuel economy.
The new Escape hits showrooms this spring and will include other eco-friendly features beyond its doors. Materials in the car that are recycled and renewable reduce impact on the environment, including soy foam in the seats and head restraints. There’s also recycled plastic bottles and other post-consumer materials in the carpeting – with recycled tires in the climate control gaskets.
According to Ford spokesman Aaron Miller, “Wide use of more environmentally friendly, recycled and recyclable materials complements the projected best-in-class fuel economy of the all-new Ford Escape, further boosting the vehicle’s environmentally responsible credentials. The new Escape meets the USCAR Vehicle Recycling Partnership goal that 85 percent of the vehicle is recyclable.”