April 26, 2017

If I Were CEO...Ford Motor Company

I love that Ford Motor Company did not become another "Government Motors" company (GM and GMAC $51 + $17.2 billion and Chrysler $12.5 billion) back in 2009, with all the bailouts that happened.  And, while there was $5.9 billion given as a loan, Ford was required to move toward more green (and electrified) options AND pay the loan back by 2022.  Plus, Ford didn't want there to be an unfair advantage for the other two companies, with the huge amounts of bailout funds being thrown at them.  Ford did what should be the norm, by looking at ways to save money, they became a more responsible and well-run; in lean times Ford cut costs.  A re-evaluation of what you're doing and how you're spending money seems logical during tighter financial times.  And now, with better times returning, it's time to start making bold moves and creating more exciting products for the consumers.

Before I get to my "If I Were CEO of Ford" initiatives, here are a couple reasons for my list and why I decided to write this post:
1.  In 2015, my wife and I were in the market for an SUV.  The Ford Expedition was our goal, but ultimately its cheap materials, tired model, and boring feature list caused us to move to the most popular SUV on the market, the Chevy Tahoe.

2.  With the recent announcement of a "pursuit rated hybrid" based on the tiny Fusion, and all the subsequent comments bashing the car on Ford's Facebook announcement, the joke that is that car was obvious to me (and many) and led me to want tweet about it.  So many people agree that the Fusion-based hybrid is not what real cops want.
3.  To be positive too, there is hope with the new 2018 Lincoln Navigator, shown at the New York Auto Show.  This vehicle is bold, beautiful, and hopefully as feature rich as it looked from the show.
If I WERE CEO of Ford Motor Company my initiatives would be focused on Product and Materials Quality, Model Refresh Rates, Bolder Designs and Advanced Technologies, Electrification, and, because of what I do now, the Police Interceptor.  


Product and Materials Quality
The first thing my wife and I noticed when checking out the 2015 Ford Expedition was the plastics, fabrics, and carpet used on the inside; it all felt cheap.  We moved over to a 2015 Lincoln Navigator, hoping to at least find higher quality materials, with no luck.  The dashboard material used in my old 1999 VW Golf was some of the best I've ever felt in an inexpensive car.  They used a soft touch material that didn't fade over time and held its quality feel.  My 2008 Nissan Altima has a similar feel.  Ford's product was very rigid and felt cheap.  The carpets, especially on the fold down rear seats, looked bad after just a few items were placed in the back (in the case of the new vehicle, just the new floor mats) and rub across it.  The carpet looked frayed and worn.  The cloth seats seemed to create static and the leather version already showed wear creases.  Ultimately, the Chevy Tahoe offered the quality we were looking for in the LT model, and it became the default option.

If I were CEO, I would move to softer touch plastics/rubbers, higher quality fabrics and leathers, more durable carpets, and tighter finishes on seams and stitches.  I'd install dark flooring carpets, to better hide dirt and spill stains, while using stain resistant materials with a tighter weave for durability.  I would shift away from too many options and use color palettes that allow for better matches to the paint schemes across all lines and model options, most likely offering a couple cloth and a couple leather options for all models.  Wood grains options would be similar to what is found in today's models but would be more generously used in the luxury models.  I'd also give more options for brushed metals in the trim pieces.
  
I would continue to find and use materials that are strong but light, while being reusable.  I would continue to use aluminum, as Ford has done in the F-Series and the future Expedition/Navigator; I think it's a great move.  I hope that eventually, the production and recycling process for aluminum and other materials helps with resource preservation.  Reusable materials would also mean fewer junkyards full of rusting toxic piles of waste.  I'd work to model product production with the use of renewable resources, similar to what Apple, Inc. is doing, including the marketing aspect of "being green".


Model Refresh Rate
I would move the timeline for refreshed models to every 3 years, with completely reworked versions being closer to every 6 years.  As mechanical technology advances, like the horsepower and torque figures coming from V6 versus V8 engines or steel versus aluminum bodies, refreshes and full redesigns may be able to occur more often.  I would not let a model or design become stale, like the 2007-2017 Expedition.  This third generation's tired look can only be losing Ford sales numbers to GM and other SUV manufacturers.

With each model year refresh, minor changes and options would be offered.  From fabric and exterior colors options to technology advances and convenience options, ongoing improvements would be implemented.  Learning from what dealers see and hear from customers, along with reviewing customers', enthusiasts', and journalists' feedback, would direct changes and improvements with each updated version.  We would learn from feedback and move forward, each change benefiting the overall quality of the product.


Bold Designs and Advanced Technologies
Product design would be heavily built around feedback from concept models, which would be built and shown at auto shows around the world.  Allowing creativity and ideas to be shown and shared, would offer the company room to produce bolder and more exciting models for the consumers.  A streamlined approval process would be developed to move concepts surrounded with excitement into production versions.  While design teams would still come up with unique ideas for the direction of the brands' major product lines, teams working on fun, creative, and nostalgic ideas would also be part of the direction for future models or company-wide design themes and cues.  Concepts that show a lot of public excitement would be given more focus and potentially moved into production.

An example of a missed opportunity is the 2004 Bronco concept.  If I were CEO, vehicles like this Bronco would have moved to production and retained the retro styling that makes it an exciting hope for many enthusiasts, while still being build to suit a wide group.  I often think about what the VW Beetle redesign did for Volkswagen.  While making sure form and function work together, careful consideration would be made to the parts of a vehicle that draw in consumers and keeps them coming back.  the 2004 Bronco design (shown below) still looks really fresh and bold.  Along with the recent enthusiast design (also shown below), the 2020 Bronco has a lot of potential to be great.  But Ford could also mess-up big if they don't take note of what excites the consumers.  IF they play it safe and present somthing that follows their current designs, the 2020 Bronco will miss.
2004 Bronco Concept
versus
2020 Enthusiast's Bronco Concept

I think of vehicles like the Dodge Challenger and Charger.  These vehicles are exciting to see and have a lot of visual appeal for consumers, while also being very capable and usable vehicles.  The California Highway Patrol added 159 Chargers to add to its fleet of police vehicles, for example.

No more with the boring designs; boldness needs to be brought back to automotive designs.  No longer can you tell a Honda from a Toyota from a Chevy from a Ford.  They all look the same.  No one is designing beautiful, exciting, bold, risk-taking vehicles.  At the 2007 NAIAS, Ford showed a concept for a new Interceptor, which I hoped was the future for the Crown Victoria.  It was something that could have been classified as bold and exciting, like what Dodge is doing.
But this design never happened.  Instead, a Ford Taurus reappeared.  And, while I liked it initially (see this article), it's now tired too.  The Interceptor design, with some tweaks, would have sold to the enthusiast and to law enforcement alike.  Combine this with a powerful engine (think Coyote) and driving technologies like all-wheel drive or traction controls and assisted driving features, and Ford would have knocked one out of the park.

In-vehicle systems need to work so much better.  I would throw in an iPad type/sized device, with its touch capability and computing power, to advance infotainment to the next level.  I would work directly with Apple and Google to offer a device that runs iOS and Android right in your dash.  It would be so simple to limit the functionality when a car is put into drive, as both already have limited versions of their operating systems, with CarPlay and AndroidAuto.  Add the addition of access through mobile connectivity, either wirelessly through a tethered device or from in-car connections through any carrier, and mobility apps and mapping software power become limitless. Tesla is already using a HUGE screen to make this a reality, and the functionality is second to none.


Electrification
Speaking of Tesla...why hasn't any other automaker been able to produce the battery life and power that Tesla is producing?  A tiny and resource-limited company, in comparison for Ford, Tesla is doing what all the big automakers refuse to do.  They are making battery powered vehicles with realistic usability a reality.  And, although the details are a little fuzzy for me, Tesla offered anyone the opportunity to copy many of its patents to further the green electrified vehicle production.  This means, we could have more options for battery powered vehicles, designed by many more people, and potentially more discoveries could be made to help increase range, power, and efficiency.

I would focus more energy on useful hybrids and all-electric vehicles.  I would break the relationship with big oil that, I'm assuming, drives the decision not to move strongly toward electrification.  If the car has both a battery-powered motor and a fuel-powered engine, I'd work harder at using the engine to charge higher performing batteries, rather than being needed to propel the vehicle.  I would work to find ways to reduce the time needed to recharge batteries, and I would work to increase the traveling distances on a single charge.  I would work on solving and crossing into the 500-mile range first.  I believe a Tesla's Model S is already close to a practical every-day vehicle, and it's done without any fuel-based engine.


Police Interceptor (because I'm in Law Enforcement)
Where did the Crown Victoria go?  Why did it have to die?  Real cops don't want a smaller vehicle.  Many agency moved the the Chevy Tahoe for power, strength, and size.  Real cops want room for equipment, comfort for themselves, and driving capabilities from their vehicle.

First, the Crown Victoria/Police Interceptor did a lot of things right or almost right.  It was a bigger vehicle, with an established look and stance.  There was room for taller driver, with an okay amount of room for an arrestee in the back.  It had a great trunk, with a deep well for equipment, bags, paperwork/forms, etc., a shelf area for computer equipment, and still room for a full-sized spare tire.  It was rear-wheel drive, which allowed capable/skilled drivers to use drifting and other techniques to maneuver the big vehicle.

Next, the CV/PI was lacking in a few areas.  The engine was weak and not very efficient, although it lasted through the abuse it took 24 hours a day.  Although big, the interior could have offered a bit more room for both driver and passenger, especially after all the equipment and cage were installed.  While recognizable, the exterior design was very stale and didn't offer sales to non-law enforcement consumers.

IF I WERE CEO of Ford, I would introduce the Ford Interceptor/Gran Torino.  This would ignite enthusiasts over the use of the 1970s name and applications (see this article).  I would base the design off the previously shown Interceptor concept from 2007, which still looks fresh and bold today.  For Law Enforcement applications, I would offer all the extra Police Interceptor features typically added today, but supply manufacturer-installed options, to help keep costs down.  Options would include:

  • Integrated light bars and lighting systems, built into the vehicle's design to be visible when on but hidden when off
  • Powertrain and suspension options facility pursuit-ratings and equipment hauling
  • Driving safety technologies like all-wheel and traction controls
  • Integrated computers, radios, and other communications systems

Interior area would be focused on accommodating larger/taller body types and equipment needs, typically found in law enforcement.  Additional attention would be placed on making sure decent room is available, even when optionally installed cages and computers are present for LEO and taxis applications.

For consumer applications, the powertrain options and room requirements would afford luxury style room and power.  Along with nostalgia and enthusiasts' love that would come from the Gran Torino name and the car's bold looks, this could be marketed as a luxury/muscle car (similar to Dodge's Charger/Challenger cars).  From base models, with aftermarket modifications in mind, to top of the line options, with luxury as the focus, the applications for this design are endless and would allow for more consumers to get excited about the return of this dual application vehicle.


Final Thoughts
IF I WERE CEO of Ford, I would continue to build on why many people respect the company.  After making moves to reduce costs and strengthen the company without TARP money, I would lead Ford toward products that were built with higher quality and reusable materials, with bold and fresh designs, filled with power, efficiency, and the latest technology, and return to the days when enthusiasts filled with nostalgia got excited to see the next thing to come from Ford Motor Company.

April 21, 2017

Taboo Suspense Music (extended version)

I love the FX show Taboo and this theme. I couldn't find it anywhere in the internets, so I made this with GarageBand for iOS. 

March 10, 2017

It Still Takes a Village

It’s interesting how humans act and react to each other and situations.  We can be so fickle.  We can get our feeling hurt over seemingly little things.  One minute we can be friends with someone, and the next we can be angry at something said to us or about us.

In my line of work, the Type-A personality is most common; and it’s needed.  I deal with bad people and have to be an authority figure, strong and decisive, almost all the time.  There are opportunities that present themselves to show empathy for a situation my “customers” get themselves into.  (Just the other night, for example, one of them came and explained the death of his son to me.  With tears in his eyes, this guy told me about how he felt responsible for a car accident that injured and ultimately took the life of his 13 year old boy.)  But most of the time, I have to direct and order these “customers” to do particular things to keep the facility running smoothly and on schedule.

And the rest of the people I work with have to lead in the same way, causing the potential for more conflicts among ourselves.  All these strong willed, opinionated, Type-A people, working in close quarters for 12+ hours at a time, will and does cause drama.  One minute everyone is getting along, and in seconds all hell can break loose.  One person may perceive another is not working or is not doing a particular task well.  Other times, someone thinks something is being done completely wrong or in an inefficient way.  Or someone says something about one person that is then spread to others, and then feelings are hurt and defense mechanisms come up.

Now, being in my forties and having managed upwards of 75 employees, I can take a step back and use the conflicts as learning experiences.  I also try and point coworkers to the same mindset.  Don’t get me wrong, I can be overly sensitive and worried about what another person says about me or to me.  But, I don’t want to be that way.  I want to feel secure in who I am and what I do, and to be able to learn from people and situations that typically make me insecure.

It’s about making the best of a situation.  Whether it’s a bad situation to learn from or a misunderstanding to straighten out, it’s important for all involved to stay sane and to take the opportunity to grow and learn and change when needed.  If we get to full of ourselves, we lose.  If we get too judgmental of others, we lose.  If we aren’t honest with others and ourselves, we lose.  It’s important to remember, we are all imperfect creatures.  We all have something to learn from each other.  Just because we are no longer children, it doesn’t mean it no longer "takes a village."

January 5, 2017

It Was A Rough Night In The County Jail

It was a normal night, working in the county jail.  We had a full staff, allowing me to work as a rovering officer for the evening, free to move about the facility to assist in any fashion I deemed needed. I was productive, while not finding the work too strenuous.

As the half way point of my shift approached, with all the inmates off to bed, dreaming of freedom while snoring and relieving bodily pressures, I knew the opportunity had arrived to take advantage of the facility’s gym equipment.  Leg day seemed the best course, as its place in the rotation of my routine had arrived months ago.  First up, sumo squats. One set, then leg lifts. A second and third set, with leg lifts following each. I moved on to lunges. First set down.

Then it happened. It got hot but I couldn't sweat. I got nauseous. I put my cold water bottle on the back of my neck. It didn't result in the desired outcome. Hotter and hotter; I could feel myself getting overheated.  I moved into the locker room to splash cold water on my neck and face. I finally began to sweat; only it wasn't a good sweat. I began to shake. Hotter and still hotter, my core temperature was reaching the all to critical boiling point. Beads of sweat began to pour down my face. Shaking and sweating and nauseous, I moved to the trash can.

I felt my stomach and chest heave as the contents therein began to fill the trash can. The sound of my heaving filled the locker room and moved out into the weight room. My partner, concerned for my well-being, rushed to my rescue only to find me in a state of distress he was not equipped to assist in. Wanting to help, he asked questions to determine a course of action he could take. But I was unable to answer, as still more evacuation of my innards were spilled into the restroom's receptacle.

Minutes went by as my body began to relax back into a state of control. As I slowly recovered, I began to tell him I'd be alright, all the while realizing my pride would not be so quick to relinquish the shame I felt. Okay, yeah. I puked at work. #embarrassing #fatty

December 23, 2016

Tanner Foust Does Gymkhana Better, Quantum Leap Still

I loved the show Quantum Leap.  I loved the American version of Top Gear.  I love cars and driving skills on display.  I think Tanner Foust is talented and funny.


In case you don't know what Quantum Leap was, here's the intro I found:


October 21, 2016

iPhone 7 Plus vs. Google’s Pixel Phone

With the announcement of Google's Pixel phone, I really debated going back to an Android device. And while this would be my third attempt, this time I think Google has the hardware and software dialed in to truly take on the iPhone.

vs. I

Let me first start with a review of my iPhone 7 Plus (and the fact I can review “my” iPhone 7 Plus tells you which phone I went with). Of course, the decision to go with the iPhone was made easier because I’m stuck in the Apple Upgrade Program, and I can't just get out of that contract without waiting two years or paying a bunch of money at once. Also, Google announced the Pixel would be coming out exclusively on the Verizon network, which is not my carrier and cannot become my carrier due to coverage issues. I have; however, read some reviews that the unlocked version of the Pixel can be ported to any carrier, but I have not been able to confirm that through Google’s Pixel phone website. But here's my review of the iPhone 7 Plus:

I went with the jet black iPhone 7 Plus, which is beautiful. I love the look, I love the color, and I love the feel in my hand without a case. As a pianist, I love that it matches my grand piano and the black keys. I'm actually going caseless, because the Apple Upgrade Program comes with Apple Care Plus. Apple Care Plus now has a screen replacement cost of only $29, which is reasonable and cheaper than most cases you can buy. I've also noticed the longer battery life; although, I'm coming from a 6S, not a Plus (smaller phone, smaller battery). I love the new cameras, with its wide angle lens and a 2x optical zoom lens, although I think it should be more like 4x optical zoom. The phone is fast, responsive, and it is a great device.

But, it has its issues. I don't like the new home button. It's not a button anymore. It just a force touch area that works with the tactile feedback mechanism, vibrating to let you know you've pushed hard enough. The button doesn’t actually move, but the tactile feedback it gives is supposed to make it feel like it moved. In my opinion, it doesn't give enough feedback. Another issue I've found involves pulling on my facial hair when I put the phone up to my ear and on my cheek.  To me, this makes it seem like the phone may struggle to be as water resistant as Apple claims. If my facial hair can get caught between the frame and glass, water will be able to seep in. And, another issue…I'm bored with iOS. The software is good, but it’s the same as always. Often, I actually think of this as a good thing because it means they've done a lot to make the phone functional and feature rich, the way we want. But I'm bored with it. One other flaw I see is on the back of the device. There is a camera bump. Why? Because of The Anorexic iPhone Problem. I wish Apple and other phone manufacturers would stop trying to make their devices thinner and thinner.

The thing Google did right with the Pixel phones is to offer the two different models, a 5 inch model and a 5.5 inch model, with the same performance specs. Both have the same processors. Both have the same cameras. Google offers two sizes, but equal performance. The only limitation is battery size, based on overall phone real estate. With Google’s Pixel, you don't have to get the bigger phone just to get all a better feature; unlike Apple, who put the better camera system only in the bigger phone. I went with the iPhone 7 Plus because I wanted the better camera, not because I wanted the bigger screen. In fact, I hate the size of the Plus. I don’t want the bigger phone. After using it for a week, I’m not even sure the camera zoom feature is worth it.

So, here's my wrap-up and recap: The iPhone 7 Plus is a great phone, but for me it’s too big. The 2x zoom doesn’t offset the size for me. The Pixel is Google’s strongest move toward a device that will battle the iPhone’s success. I wish I was able to get out of the Apple Upgrade Program or have the patience to wait it out with a device for two years, so I could move over to the new Google flagship.