Dave Pericak, former head of Ford Performance and now responsible for the brand’s icon models, told CNET on the sidelines of the Chicago Auto Show that evolving environmental regulations have forced the automaker to reassess how it views performance.
“A lot of countries are changing regulations so quickly, and so much, they’re almost forcing the performance products out,” he said.
“Our job is going to be two-fold,” Pericak continued. “One is to figure out how to continue to make performance that will exist in some of these regulated countries, even our own, and how do you do it so it’s a global offering?”
It’s a good question. Environmental regulations have indeed forced automakers to downsize displacement and re-familiarize themselves with turbocharging. Electrification is an option growing in popularity too, with many global automakers tossing battery packs into vehicles of all sizes at no small cost to themselves.
Ford doesn’t plan on tailoring powertrains for select markets moving forward, meaning America’s propensity for more power won’t mean a whole lot. Pericak claimed the company’s research shows quarter-mile times may not be the most important factor at buying time, and says to expect the industry to focus on offering performance experiences rather than sky-high specs.
We’re inclined to agree. It’s exceptionally difficult to squeeze every ounce of enjoyment from a car that’s trying to compete with a Saturn V rocket in terms of peak output (on the street); meanwhile, there’s a real lack of affordable performance models prioritizing low-speed thrills on the market. Yet eliminating vehicles like that from the lineup will probably discourage a subset of buyers who like big engines and burnt rubber.
Say a performance vehicle will run the quarter mile in 11 seconds. That may be fine and dandy to a younger buyer, “But what are they going to feel? What are they going to experience? How are they going to engage with the vehicle in a way they can feel the acceleration and power?” Those are the questions that surround next-generation performance cars for Ford.
“It doesn’t mean we still won’t make the car go like a bat out of hell,” Pericak added, “But maybe (0-to-60 mph times) aren’t the way we talk about it.”
According to Pericak, Ford hasn’t really decided exactly how this theory will manifest in future products. It sounds like he’s trying to soften the blow as displacement sizes continue to shrink in adherence with rigorous environmental standards. Appearance packages marketed as performance upgrades may also become more prevalent. However, don’t expect every model to start arriving as a three-cylinder with a bodykit.
Pericak said Ford won’t bin the Mustang or neuter it in a bid to be greener. The manufacturer just doesn’t see itself trying to customize global models to regional tastes anymore.