It's hard for me to look at John Viera with anything other than stars in my eyes and that is saying a lot coming from this +Michigan State University Spartan. Even though he holds both a Bachelor's of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Master's in Business Administration from one of my school's greatest rivals, the +University of Michigan, to me John is a still a full on, green living rock star.
Not only is John Viera sharp as a tack and exceedingly competent and effective in his role as Global Director, Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental Matters at +Ford Motor Company, he is just a heck of a nice guy.
Really everybody at Ford I have met, from their press folks at Ogilvy to their tour guides at the Rouge factory, to Bill Ford, Alan Mulally, +Scott Monty and everybody in between (and that includes the dozens of Ford sales people I have dealt with over the years), are just really stellar people who care about what consumers are saying about their beloved brand.
Nice Guys Finish First and Share
I have had the pleasure of meeting with John Viera on a couple of occasions over the last year and even if it meant walking and talking with me all the way outside after a presentations as I rushed outside to catch my ride on time, he shares an excitement about his job that is infectious and almost kid like.
Talking to John Viera about sustainability is like talking to a kid about what they want to be when they grow up. They get that excited look in their eyes and that's what I see in John when he shares Ford's sustainability message. Ford Motor Company's green message may start at the top with Bill Ford's personal ideology, but it beats in the heart of John Viera who then shares it with not only Ford, but the rest of us as well.
I recently had the chance to get John's comments on how consumers benefit from Ford's sustainability initiatives, his thoughts about competing with Toyota, what the sustainable car of the future will look like and more.
|Ford C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) Kicks the Prius and Volt to the Curb|
EB: What do you feel is the preeminent initiative Ford has implemented to promote sustainability under your leadership and what have the benefits been for Ford Motors as well as consumers?
John Viera: It is hard to pick just one. I am proud of all of our sustainability efforts, from reducing our global water use to improving fuel economy and maximizing our use of renewable and recyclable materials in our vehicles. I would point back to our Power of Choice plan that we discussed during Further with Ford as a key initiative. As you know, Shane, we offer a range of fuel-efficient vehicles and technologies that meet the various needs of our customers. We've introduced great news hybrid vehicles like the Fusion and the C-MAX and are now offering both of those cars as plug-in hybrids with the nameplate Energi (Fusion Energi and C-MAX Energi). We also have the Focus Electric which doesn't use any gas at all. We are "electrifying" these three lines of vehicles so that we can flex our production to scale to demand. The Focus Electric and gas-powered Focus are made on the same assembly line in Wayne, Michigan.
We know that a pure electric or a plug-in vehicle may not be the right fit for everyone right now, either based on budget or driving style, but we've made tremendous improvements in the fuel economy of our conventional gas engines as well, with many achieving 40+ MPG. This change in the near-term is making a big impact to give all customers access to greener and more affordable vehicles.
|Just how sustainable is the Ford Fusion?|
EB: As you know, the big news is that Ford hybrid market share jumped nearly 9 percentage points from December 2011 to December 2012 while Toyota’s share of the hybrid vehicle segment dropped 8 points. What do you think consumers are responding to in Ford hybrid vehicles that they are not getting from Toyota's hybrid lineup?
John Viera: We are certainly pleased with the numbers for our hybrids thus far. We have great respect for Toyota and its leadership in the hybrid market and certainly enjoy competing with them. It is certainly a healthy competition.
Having driven both Ford and Toyota hybrids, I will tell you -- with a great deal of bias I concede -- that I think ours are a little more fun to drive in terms of performance and horsepower. I think customers are also responding to the great technology that is available in the car for both efficiency monitoring (like our SmartGauge cluster and features like EcoCruise and EV+) to entertainment (SYNC and MyFord Touch systems, SIRIUS Radio, HD Radio, etc.).
Some other tidbits I'll share about why our hybrids are successful are: we're investing $135 million in the design, engineering and production of key components – including doubling our battery testing capabilities – for the five electrified vehicles the company will have in its portfolio by the end of the year: Fusion Hybrid, Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid,C-MAX Hybrid, C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid and Focus Electric.
We also now have more than 1,000 engineers working on vehicle electrification, which is headquartered at our 285,000-square-foot Advanced Electrification Center in Dearborn. Finally, we've reduced the cost of our current hybrid system by 30 percent compared with previous-generation technology and vehicles are coming to market 25 percent faster.
|Charging your Focus Electric couldn’t be easier with MyFord® Mobile. Plus, Ford is teaming up with Silicon Valley start-up, PlugShare, to increase access to charging stations across the country, offering real-time, crowd-sourced information about each station available through MyFord Mobile, Ford’s award-winning smartphone app for Ford EV customers. |
John Viera: We have a tradition of making the desirable, affordable. It was one of Henry Ford's guiding principles. I can't speak to specific price in 10-20 years, but I will tell you that we will insist on democratizing our sustainable practices across all vehicle lines. That is one of the reasons that we made much of our high-end technology available on our Focus line -- from Active Park Assist and rearview cameras to MyFord Touch. SYNC is now available on all 2013 models regardless of trim level.
Driving green is not just a luxury for the wealthy, it is an imperative for our planet, and that is how we've attacked the manufacturing and design of our cars and trucks in the past. In the future, the sustainable car may not "look" drastically different, but the fuel it receives may be. We are researching all different kinds of fuel from electricity to hydrogen to ethanol and biodiesel.
But when we look at the future we see more than just higher MPG. Ford values the increased role connectivity will have in our vehicles in the future, both between the driver with the vehicle, and the vehicle with other devices. Ford is looking at intelligent vehicles that communicate with each other (warning of potential dangers to enhance safety and flag impending traffic congestion) and the infrastucture (traffic lights, utility providers, etc.).
Ford is and always has been, committed to creating affordable options. Or as I said earlier, making the desirable, affordable.
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Full Disclosure: I am a Ford Motors girl at heart as well as a Ford Motors Digital Influencer