About every four years the United Auto Workers (UAW) renegotiate its labor contract with the USA’s big-three automakers. While these negotiations and the proposals that accompany them are mostly packed full of language regarding wages, holidays, plant closings, and benefits, there are usually a few tidbits regarding existing and new models that industrious journalists can glean from within the pages.
Such is the case with the latest proposed contract between the UAW and Ford Motor Company. And as is typical, this document is packed full of the typical benefits language. However, scanning through the document, we can find the information that as fans of Ford products really concerns us.
Pages seven and eight of the 28 page document reveal product commitments and assembly operations. Rumors and speculation have blown-up during the past several days with regard to what these two pages mean for Ford products and enthusiasts. So we thought we’d take a quick look and try to add a voice of reason to all the speculation.
V6 Gets Upgrades
For Mustang enthusiasts there are at least four pieces of information here that are worthy of reporting. The first is in regard to the 3.7-liter V6. That engine also powers the Ford Explorer Police Interceptor, and is built at the Cleveland engine plant. According the UAW proposal, that engine will continue with an upgrade. What upgrades are not specifically outlined, however we suspect improvements for its emissions friendliness like weight reduction, and even its performance and efficiency are in store. This is good news for V6 owners as the V6 Mustang may continue to live on, in-spite of its current low position in the Mustang realm.
More Powerful EcoBoost?
The 2.3 EcoBoost is slated for an upgrade under the UAW proposal.
Next on the list is the 2.3 and 2.0 EcoBoost engines. Also built at Cleveland, a plant receiving a 150-million-dollar investment as part of this contract, these engines are slated for upgrades as well per the contract. That could mean a more powerful EcoBoost Mustang is on the way, and even a more powerful Focus RS.
Fate of the Coyote
Interestingly on the list, but not labeled for upgrade is the 5.0 Coyote. The UAW proposal states that the Romeo engine facility will continue block and connecting rod manufacturing, but does not list an upgrade for this engine. We had hoped that the Coyote would be on the upgrade list, as it’s in dire need of a freshening above its current 435 horsepower output if the Mustang is to continue to compete strongly against its now lighter-weight rival the Camaro, for pony car dominance.
There are a few possible conclusions that could be drawn from this information. One is that the Coyote 5.0 is only going to continue until 2019, or will continue in its current form until that time. That is when the Mustang is due for its mid-cycle refresh and rumors abound about a new Mach 1 or other niche model to debut then.
Another is that the Coyote block and rods may remain the same, but its cylinder heads may be altered, perhaps for direct-injection. The UAW proposal does state that the Romeo plant will add a head machining module. That could mean something new is coming to the top-half of the Coyote engine.
We also have to wonder would the Coyote be phased out of the car line in favor of the 5.2? Perhaps one version of the 5.2 powering the Mustang GT and another in the GT350? Such a change would give the Voodoo engine a boost and better justify its overall cost to produce. The counterpoint to such thinking would be that the Voodoo engine in the Mustang GT would require a significant rework of the car to avoid potential noise, vibration, and harshness issues. It would also kill fuel economy in the Mustang GT, potentially ruling out putting this engine in that model and instead in favor of its continuation as a niche product.
New UAW contract does not show any upgrades for the 5.0, only continuation of its block and rods.
It appears the 5.2 Voodoo is already getting an upgrade.
The last and our least favorite option is that the Coyote could continue in truck-only or parts-only form (explaining why the block and rods were continued) and be gone from production in a few years, replaced by either another V8 or an EcoBoost V6. We’ve heard rumors that Fiat-Chrysler is axing its V8 option in passenger cars in 2018 due to upcoming government fuel economy standards (CAFE). Could Ford be headed this route as well?
Voodoo On The Rise
The last and most interesting piece of news on the Mustang front comes regarding the 5.2-liter Voodoo engine. The UAW agreement states that this engine will continue with an upgrade. Ford only recently started delivering 5.2-liter powered GT350s to customers, and already there’s talk of an upgrade. There was also much speculation that this engine and vehicle would be short-lived due to CAFE regulations, which seems now to be a false rumor.
The C-Max will get the axe, but will replace it in Michigan?
This information leads us back to something we’ve always heard from Blue Oval officials. We’re always told that every last horsepower is being squeezed from an engine, only to find it refined a few years later. In 2011 there was a similar note in the UAW proposal and contract that mentioned a 5.8-liter engine, if we recall correctly the statement said 5.4 transitions to 5.8. That transition and UAW contract yielded us the most powerful Mustang ever, the 2013-14 GT500. Are we about to see the GT350 gain more power as well? Probably.
What Happens At Michigan?
Other news that’s interesting to note is that the Michigan Assembly plant will receive a 700-million-dollar investment. However, that plant will see the Focus sent to Mexico, and the C-Max hybrid vehicle phased out in the next few years. Leaving that plant without a vehicle to build. The UAW proposal states that this plant will receive two new models, one in 2018 and another no later than 2020.
Could there be a Bronco based on the Raptor? We doubt it.
Popular speculation is that one of these models is a new Ford Ranger to compete head to head with the highly successful GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado models, of which GM has already sold 75,000 copies of this year. Demand for a mid-size pickup slotted below the half-ton market seems to be strong, as is also evidenced by the continued high resale value of the defunct Ford Ranger, and previous versions of GM’s Colorado, Canyon, Sonoma, and S-10 pickups.
The GT’s Home or a New Bronco?
Where will final assembly happen for the Ford GT? Could be the Michigan Assembly Plant.
We’ve heard speculation for the last seven years that a Bronco is coming, based around the F-150 Raptor and now that it would be powered by the Raptor’s new EcoBoost engine. However, we have to wonder if there’s room in the Ford lineup for another SUV? Is there enough market share with the Jeep Wrangler, a vehicle that enjoys a rabid fan following and loyalty to share with a Ford competitor. Can Ford do this and still hit mandated CAFE targets? Wouldn’t it be wiser to use the existing Expedition platform for this? What makes more sense from a corporate view is that something smaller is on the way to replace the C-Max and help Ford put a green face in front of the government and environmental groups.
There’s another possibility as well. While the Ford GT will be a niche product, it’s entirely possible that the GT could be one of the products coming to the Michigan plant. While we’ve heard the GT is a 2017 model, the UAW proposal language states model will be added in 2018, and we’ve not yet heard where final assembly of the GT will occur. The only other note is that a product will be added no later than 2020? Ford GT?
Another interesting note, the 6.2-liter engine that was once available in the Raptor will also live on. Slated for an upgrade, and a possible displacement increase, this engine will remain in the Super Duty truck line, and with a displacement bump could be replacing the Triton V10 of years past. We won’t be seeing this engine reappear in a half-ton truck like the F-150 or Raptor.
Time will tell, and Ford has said in the past the company is always working on product that’s five years out. While we, and everyone else can speculate about future product, in the end we’ll all have to wait for Ford to show us what’s next in at least some of these cases.