The big chill of 2013-14 that gave much of North America bone-numbing temperatures and record snowfall prompted two seldom-used words to enter the daily lexicon: Polar vortex.
On the heels of that infamous season, Ford – committed to gaining a deeper understanding for how its vehicles could better assist drivers in harsh winter conditions – deployed a team north. The company’s extreme climate team set out to host a customer clinic in Edmonton, Alberta, to hear what drivers there had to say about the challenges they faced on the road. Already, Ford is using that feedback to give customers more of what they need.
“What our customers in Canada told us is simple – ‘Heat everything!’” says Nicole Mazur, product development quality supervisor for Ford Canada and export markets. “They wanted better access to some of the cold weather features Ford was already offering on its higher-series vehicles.”
Mazur and job-share partner Melissa DeLuka spearhead North American input into Ford’s extreme climate team – part of a broader global group that represents Ford quality engineering in cross-functional product development. The group aims to help Ford better understand the voice of the customer in extreme climate regions around the world.
Ford initiated these efforts about five years ago to identify market-specific customer needs and expectations, whether that be contending with extreme heat in the Middle East or the unique driving habits common throughout China. Extreme climate team members in Canada share findings with their counterparts in Russia and Scandinavia, then use those learnings to prioritize which cold weather features are most important to drivers in each region – all in an effort to make more technology available to more drivers.
By sheer coincidence – as the polar vortex gripped residents across North America with temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit and snowfall best measured by yardstick – Ford polled Canada customers in its annual North American vehicle quality survey for the first time. Feedback from that prompted the customer clinics the following spring.
“Sometimes, it’s about comfort, but other times it’s more than that,” says DeLuka. “What much of the United States experienced with the polar vortex is what northern Canada gets every year.”
Findings from the customer clinics indicated drivers would prefer a heated steering wheel, heated mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer as standard equipment; 82 percent would consider purchasing the de-icer if it was available. The extreme climate team took this feedback, along with information from the quality survey, then worked with experts from other areas of the company to come up with ways to better meet the needs of drivers.
The result is a suite of cold weather technology on the 2017 Escape that provides solutions to the biggest frustrations drivers contend with in winter. Given the Farmer’s Almanac warns temperatures across the United States will be “exceptionally cold, if not downright frigid” this winter, the timing couldn’t be better. Features include:
- Windshield wiper de-icer that works by using a local heating element where the wiper blades rest to remove light snow and ice from wiper blades in under 10 minutes at minus 18 degrees Fahrenheit
- All-weather floor mats featuring deep grooves and raised ridges that catch and hold snow, slush and mud, while protecting vehicle carpeting
- Heated side mirrors that warm to melt ice and snow for improved visibility
- Heated seats to keep driver and front passenger comfortable as temperatures drop
- Available heated steering wheel to keep hands warm in the coldest temperatures
The 2017 Ford Escape also delivers available remote start capability courtesy of SYNC® Connect – enabling drivers to start and warm up their vehicle remotely from anywhere using FordPass®, which is compatible with select smartphone platforms.
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is a global automotive and mobility company based in Dearborn, Michigan. With about 203,000 employees and 62 plants worldwide, the company’s core business includes designing, manufacturing, marketing and servicing a full line of Ford cars, trucks and SUVs, as well as Lincoln luxury vehicles. To expand its business model, Ford is aggressively pursuing emerging opportunities with investments in electrification, autonomy and mobility. Ford provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford and its products and services, please visit www.corporate.ford.com.