Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Who Would Have Ever Guessed That Ford Motor Co. Was All About Great Design?

Yesterday, I spent the day with my wife's new to her, 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Ford's cute little answer to the Toyota Prius. Reports on the car have been good and several car magazine's thought it was, in fact, a better value and all around better car than the Prius. Really? From Ford? Hollywood must be in shock. While they may be the "beautiful" people, they seem to love ugly duckling cars. And the Prius, from first to current model, is certainly an ugly duckling.

I'm not sure if it was developed first in Europe where gasoline prices hover around $8-10 a gallon, but last summer C-Max's were thick as fleas in Europe. They even make a slightly larger S-Max, something Ford should seriously consider for sale here in the states as well.

We first checked them out soon after my surgery when our 8 year old Buick started acting weird. We have friends who bought a C-Max just after they came out who extolled its virtues. We weren't in the market so agreed it was amazingly roomy for its size. In fact, it was darn cute.

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid
When her car started acting up I thought my wife would want the Ford Escape or something in that size...smaller than the Buick but bigger than the C-Max. However, she took to it like a duck to water. After a trip to the desert where we noticed the transmission slipping, we started looking seriously. Back to the dealer, a test drive and after half hearted haggling we decided to move on.

Never say never to my wife. She found her car and before I knew it, she found one on the CarMax web site and it was in Irvine, CA. I called and had them bring it up. Why it would take four days to drive an hour is anyone's guess but once the car arrived, a few days later, we went over to see it. Here she is above in her pearl white glory.

We went prepared too. Pink slip, check book, debit cards, we were ready. And it was still cute. My wife insisted I drive it because the Matrix she bought I hated. After stalling it about four times on our street (it was a 6-speed and trust me no BMW in the shifting department) I never drove that car again. So, I got behind the wheel and if you have never driven a hybrid, you pay far closer attention to the dashboard. When turned on there is no sound, nothing, NADA. It is totally silent. You look for the message..."The car is ready to drive." And, it is. On the freeway the salesman said, "Give it some gas." The sound is hardly encouraging and I thought, OMG it will take forever to just reach 60! Then I looked at the speedometer and saw I was going 75 mph. I guess it can go up to 110 mph not that that's legal anywhere in the U.S. Your highway milage might suffer too. Its supposed to get 45 mpg city. We haven't reached that level yet.

After about a month we still have yet to put another tank of gas in it. In fact, after the first week, my wife said the gas gauge doesn't work. We started a list. Then a day later she noticed that the gauge had moved about a 32nd of an inch. It really and truly sips gas.

When my wife noticed in a recent rain that the windshield had pits in it I went out to look myself. Looking at it with the sun shining through I realized that it had been pitted...a sandstorm? Who knows. More important, who cares. We keep our cars until they rust through and a pitted windshield only gets worse. Back to CarMax several times yesterday to get the windshield replaced I got a chance to try the car out. While I love my GMC pickup, I had an absolute ball with this car. The service people did too.

Driving home with a new windshield I decided that this car was definitely a keeper. For once, a car company decided to listen to their buyers and cram as much of what they wanted in one small car that was fun to drive and economical to own. Around town you can carry 4 people in style. On a long trip it is too small for 4 and their luggage but for two perfect. The back seats fold completely flat and with all the other amenities, you would travel in style. I really liked that the key fob opens the tailgate with a double click. Once loaded, you push another button and the tailgate lowers and locks itself. You don't even need to wiggle a foot.

Good design, no matter where, is rewarding. Not only for the buyer but the seller as well. If your customers love your products, they reward you with more purchases and really good word of mouth. If you have a lousy products you will soon join the ranks of the unemployed. While it is never easy, once learned, good design begins to multiply within itself. Look at Apple. First Apple Computers, then the MacIntosh, the iPod, the iPhone and the list goes on and on. Since todays cars ARE nothing but computers on wheels, car companies had better pay closer attention to their buyers. Ford has. While I agree the Sync system they tout is hard to use, it was a snap setting up our iPhones on the C-Max system. Now when you call, we don't have to lift a phone. The car does all the heavy lifting all by itself!

Always demand better! Reward those that give it.

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