Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Ford Focus Will Tell You If You’re a Lousy Driver

STONEHAM, Mass -- Fair or not, Massachusetts drivers have a certain irreversible reputation for their driving. However, a new technology in the Ford Focus could help alter the driving behaviors of many Massachusetts Ford owners. Ford EcoMode, a software application in the 2012 Ford Focus, will analyze drivers’ performance and suggest changes that will help them improve fuel economy, save money and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Anyone that has braved Boston commutes on the Mass Pike, Route 93 or I-95 has seen drivers furiously accelerating, only to brake suddenly as traffic comes to a halt. Ford EcoMode recognizes the toll this behavior takes on fuel economy and suggests a better way forward, such as smoothly accelerating and decelerating, anticipating slow-moving traffic and maintaining a proper distance and consistent speed.

“Common-sense driving rules get tossed out the window as soon as most Massachusetts commuters leave their driveways. The reminders from EcoMode offer an antidote for that,” said Alan Melkonian, owner and general manager of Greater Boston Ford dealership Stoneham Ford. “Buyers shouldn’t just think of it as an electronic nanny, though. EcoMode analyzes less-obvious factors that affect fuel consumption, like proper gear use and the ideal highway cruising speed.”

Located on the driver information menu in the new Focus instrument cluster, EcoMode allows drivers to compare a personal performance score against ideal driving patterns, with scores ranging from two leaves (lowest) to five leaves (highest). While determining scores, EcoMode suggests driving tips along the way, such as “smooth driving saves fuel,” during erratic accelerating, decelerating or braking, or “early shifting saves fuel,” when the driver is not shifting in line with their acceleration.

Ford has found that eco-driving skills encouraged by the EcoMode software can improve fuel economy by an average of 24%. Additionally, the Auto Alliance’s national EcoDriving initiative determined that a 15% improvement in fuel economy by every American driver could reduce fuel consumption by more than 22 billion gallons of gas a year.

Ford EcoMode is one of several new additions to the 2012 Ford Focus, which will be powered by a 2.0-liter direct-injection 4-cylinder engine that gets up to 40 miles per gallon on the highway. Ford SYNC with MyFord Touch will replace dashboard buttons with touch-sensitive display screens and five-way buttons. Ford will also offer an available active park assist system that automates parallel parking.

Ford has yet to confirm a release date for the reimagined Focus, but most industry watchers expect to see it at Ford dealerships before the end of the summer.

“Everyone in Massachusetts thinks they’re a great driver, and everyone else on the road is the problem,” Melkonian added. “Ford Focus owners who really want to know what kind of driver they are will be brave enough to fire up EcoMode and see what the car has to say. For a lot of them, it will be a very eye-opening experience.”