Missing the mark

Most likely Ford believes they hit the target with their marketing of the Focus Electric. They may have, but their target was completely misplaced. Take a look at the FFE’s brochure: How it stresses the “green cred” in the car (the recycled plastic seats, the high efficiency, etc.). In essence they are marketing to the “green” crowd that wants to save the planet, etc. Now lets take a look at who is buying the car (ok this is totally anecdotal and could be due to location bias, observation bias, etc.): The people I’ve observed buying the FFE (and many other EVs for that matter) are early adopter hi-techy types. These are people that jump at the brand new cellphones, and tablets when they first come out. These are the first to purchase the latest computer. They buy the latest hi-tech gadget to come out because it is new and different. At this point in time EVs are still new and different.

Had Ford really recognized who would be buying the car, perhaps they would have designed it a little differently. Despite the very configurable dash there are a bunch of features that are missing that early adopters would love to have:

  • Ability to charge the battery to any level–not just full every time (this could have been accomplished by adding a % value to the “value charge” settings)
  • More information on the dash: The car shows a lot of detail about power consumption as you drive but it would also be nice to see “charge consumption” (e.g. when I first get in the car after it has been charging: show how much was charged in a few different units like % of battery, and kWhr)
  • Ditch the “brake coach” and instead show the regen on the same meter that displays power usage (instead of showing a power usage from 0 – ~500 Whrs make the range go from -300 or so to 500 Whrs and show how much power is going back into the battery when braking–this way the driver will know how much s/he is getting depending on how hard s/he is pushing on the brake pedal)
  • More diagnostic information ¬†on the dash. This is a big one, even though the FFE does have many icons for different failures on the dash more detail could still be provided.

That last item above is huge and could have helped solved some of the biggest issues with the FFE: The dreaded “Stop Safely Now” (SSN) error. In short when a driver gets this message the car shuts off all drive power (including power steering power) leaving the driver in a panic trying to find a safe place to point the car to in the next 10 or less feet before it stops (not a safe thing to do in the middle of an intersection, or on a busy freeway)! In many instances the SSN error records no codes and the car can be safely driven away a few minutes later after a restart (but not all instances). What if Ford had the vision that it should put all information/codes related to the SSN error on the display when it happens–this sounds reasonable: presumably the dash module and the engine computer were talking at the time, otherwise the dash wouldn’t have known to put the message up and whatever other module that was panicking is also sending out information that its shutting down. How would this change help? Imagine the following two scenarios:

  • Today: Driving along normally..”Ding” the SSN message appears and the car dies. The driver was able to safely get to the side of the road, but is pretty angry about the situation. S/he manages to get the car started and drives it to a dealer. The dealer looks over the car, scans it with IDS, and reports back “no trouble found”, no codes, car operates normally, etc. Dealer gives the car back to the customer who is even more angry at this point and calls Ford and gets “well this is the first we’ve heard of it!?” Which, of course, only infuriates the customer more–eventually this customer will get his/her car purchased back as a lemon and vows never to drive Ford again…
  • Possible: Driving along normally.. “Ding” the SSN message appears along with 3 codes “EM1234”, “EM4567”, “EM8901”. The driver grabs a quick picture of the message on his/her cell phone after safely pulling over. Gets the car to the dealer and shows/e-mails the pictures to the dealer. “Well I see here that one code is low voltage on the 12V circuit, another code is a network error, etc.” At this point dealer still pulls no codes from the car (as it hasn’t recorded those codes) but still has a starting point to investigate, and can even send the images off to Ford so the dealer and Ford can, possibly, work out a solution.

We understand that we’re early adopters and this kind of thing may happen; by providing just a little bit of diagnostic information Ford may have found some solutions to a bunch of the errors its seeing today with the FFE (granted it is also possible that even with codes the SSN message may just say: “I found a problem” and not report out what it is; I don’t think this would happen though because the car clearly knows “why” its shutting down. It may not be the root cause but it still is a starting point in the diagnostic process).

In addition, keep in mind who many of us early adopters are: Many of the posters on Ford’s My Ford Mobile website, and the My Focus Electric website have indicated that they are engineers (often the profile of an early adopter LOL). Providing just a little bit more engineering data to us would make us very happy indeed! (Even if it was a setting in the menu systems that needs to be turned on…we’ll find it and turn it on!)

 

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