U.S.A.:Q&A with Global Powertrain Cheif Dave Szczupak
Ford pushing Escape hybrid, diesels in 2004
By RICHARD TRUETT | Automotive News
Ford Motor Co. 's global powertrain chief, Dave Szczupak, faces a busy year. He is overseeing Ford's half of a joint General Motors-Ford six-speed transmission project and launching the gasoline-electric Escape hybrid.
At the same time, Ford is building a new 3.5-liter V-6 engine, rolling out a continuously variable transmission and putting two new engines in the next-generation Mustang.
Szczupak also is playing a key role in plans to introduce more diesel engines in the United States. That comes on the heels of last year's rocky launch of a 6.0-liter PowerStroke engine supplied by International Truck and Engine Corp. used in the F-series Super Duty trucks.
The engine has encountered major quality problems. Ford had to repurchase at least 500 trucks that had severe engine malfunctions caused by the fuel-injection system. Ford also confronted problems with the turbocharger and engine computer.
Szczupak spoke with Automotive News Staff Reporter Richard Truett on these and other projects.
Why did the 2004 version of the PowerStroke diesel V-8 engine get such major revisions? Did it have to do with quality problems the engine experienced during launch?
The '04 PowerStroke has to meet a different emissions level than the '03. When we launched the '03, it was to get the program launched. The '04 always was an emissions program. So, the major changes to the engine for '04 are emissions related.
It seems an expensive upgrade to do for an engine on the market for just one year.
Most of the changes - that's done by International- were to add an exhaust gas recirculation system and to improve the emissions control system. The base engine itself is incredibly durable. You tear one down and it looks brand new. It's just a fantastic workhorse.
Well, that part of it may be good, but other parts have been particularly troublesome. Are the quality glitches related to the fuel injectors and computer system behind you?
Absolutely. We clearly did some owner notifications on the early vehicles, mainly around control strategies and very little in terms of hardware. It was fairly easy to put right, which we did with an owner notification. You look at the customer satisfaction for that product. It's wonderful. Customers really love the PowerStroke diesel. It's much better than the old 7.3 (liter engine). Wouldn't it have been nice not to do the owner notifications on those early vehicles? Yep. Have we learned from it? Damn right we have. The '04 launch is better as a result of that.
Ford customers may like the motor, but is Ford management still behind it?
I think we are all disappointed when you have to do an owner notification on anything. It makes everyone's energy get high within the company. But International is an important partner and supplier to Ford. We probably have a stronger relationship with International today than we've ever had.
Is Ford looking for a new diesel engine supplier?
We are always looking to see what's out there. You know, diesel engines are going to grow. We are always going to look to make sure we have the best, most appropriate stuff. That is not to say that we have lost any confidence in International at all. We've got Peugeot as a partner as well. That's a very strong partnership in Europe. We've got some great diesel engines across the world.
Is this going to be a busy year for Ford's powertrain operations?
I would call it an exciting and challenging year. With all these things, like the Escape hybrid, the engineering is nearly finished. While it might be new to everyone in the world, the work's really gone on in the last two years.
What is the role of Powertrain Group in launching the Escape hybrid? Does the Escape hybrid have a specially tuned engine?
Clearly, Powertrain Group has engine responsibility. The engine is made on the same line, but we've made sure we matched the engine perfectly to the hybrid transmission.
You recently took a ride with Tom Stephens, your counterpart at General Motors, to test drive the new GM-Ford six-speed automatic transmission. What were your impressions of the new gearbox?
We are both very encouraged. Transmissions usually come together kind of in the last nine months. To drive one so early in its development, and it feels so good, is a tremendous step forward. The durability testing is coming along well. I am really encouraged. We are going to have a great transmission.
When will that transmission be launched in a Ford product?
It will be launched in '06. I don't think we have announced the exact date. We have not announced what it will go in yet. We have said it will be matched to the Duratec 35 (3.5-liter V-6 engine).
Will the Duratec 35 be used in the Freestyle? If so, wouldn't that avoid the mistake Chrysler made with the Pacifica by not giving it enough power?
Have you driven the Freestyle? I've driven it fully loaded, and though it's only 200 horsepower, the CVT and the shape of the torque curve we've got from the 200 horsepower Duratec - the whole idea was not to get more horsepower and have the wrong torque curve. We are really trying to match the CVT and engine together and get the most out of those. I don't think we need any more performance.
So are you saying the 3.5-liter won't be used in the Freestyle and Five Hundred?
For now the Freestyle and the Five Hundred are going to be great products with the 3.0-liter and the CVT. They will please a lot of people with their great fuel economy and performance.
How many 3.5-liter Duratec engines will you build each year?
We've said we are going to make 325,000 at our Lima, Ohio, plant. My challenge is to make sure we have enough customers for the 325,000.
What's the difference between the CVT used on the European Focus C-Max diesel and the one scheduled for the 3.0-liter Duratec engine?
The diesel and gasoline ones are very similar. The difference is we go from a belt to a chain for the higher- torque diesel engine. The chain is for the higher torque requirements.
What are your priorities for 2004?
Launching all the new products on time. We have to get the 4.0-liter (V-6) and the three-valve 4.6-liter engine in the Mustang launched.
Staying on the V-8s, we've got to put the three-valve V-8s into the F-series Super Duty. We've got to get Dearborn Truck online as a new customer for us. We've got a whole new Duratec plant going into Cleveland for the Five Hundred and Freestyle. That's a whole new flexible manufacturing facility. That's a huge priority for me. Really that's our first moving line assembly for engines for a long time. In Dagenham (England) we have a new V-6 diesel for the European products and in Bridgend (Wales) for the Premier Automotive Group products. We've got a lot of launches this year, plus new programs coming along that I can't even talk about.
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My next Ford.....