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Ready for Winter? Ford Adds New Remote Start Feature, Heated Steering Wheel to Warm Customers


DEARBORN, Mich. December 3, 2009; Ford, responding to increasing consumer demand, is heating up its vehicle lineup with winter-weather options including a factory-installed remote start system and heated steering wheel.

The remote start system will debut on the 2011 Ford Super Duty next spring and eventually will be offered across the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury lineup. Also next year, Lincoln will begin offering customers a heated steering wheel option, which will be available first on the new 2011 Lincoln MKX.

Ford has been offering a dealer-installed remote start kit since the late 1990s that has proven popular with customers. The kits rank as one of the top three Genuine Ford Accessories sold nationally for the past five years. In the past year, sales have increased 40 percent since Ford started installing the dealer remote starter kits at modification centers located near assembly plants.

The new factory option comes in response to strong customer demand. A recent J.D. Power Emerging Technology Study found 90 percent of customers would prefer remote start systems be factory-installed.

"What was once a feature only available on luxury cars or in the aftermarket is now becoming a factory-installed option for Ford customers," said Michael Kan, research and development engineer with Ford Customer Service Division (FCSD). "Customers want the peace of mind that comes with a factory-installed option; now Ford is meeting this demand with a high-quality, affordable solution."

The new factory-installed remote start, when integrated with the available automatic climate control system, measures the temperature and quickly creates a comfortable atmosphere with heating or air conditioning, heated or cooled front seats, and the front and rear defroster if needed.

"When you jump in a Ford car or truck, no matter the weather, it's ready to go," said Lisa Boran, a technical expert with Ford Body and Security Electronics. "We've been able to integrate these two features to improve upon the traditional remote start system."

Improved emissions performance

Customers can also feel good about their decision to preheat or precook their ride, says Ford powertrain engineers and emission experts. Although remote start systems have been given a bad emissions rap in the past, it's not true that leaving a car at idle pumps more hydrocarbons, CO and nitrogen oxides into the air.

John Shanahan, manager, Ford Powertrain Feature Calibration, explains: "The vast majority of a vehicle's emissions are made during the drive-away after the car is started. Once the catalyst is warmed up, it will convert up to 99 percent of the engine-out emissions into less harmful gases. With remote start, along with getting the passenger compartment comfortable, you're warming the catalyst while the vehicle is in neutral with lighter loads on the engine. We employ engine control features that maximize the catalyst warm-up, even if the engine is only idling. This will result in a more active catalyst when you drive away."

That warmed-up catalyst can represent up to a 75 percent emissions reduction, depending on how cool the catalyst is and how hard the driver accelerates those first few times after a typical engine start.

Hot wheels

The heated steering wheel option coming to the Lincoln lineup is also about responding to customer needs, said Cole Buccafurri, Ford's feature and branding manager. "Market research told us that a heated steering wheel was something our target Lincoln customer was definitely interested in," he noted.

Throw aside the market research, the biological fact is that the human body functions better when it's warm. The body's initial response to cold is to preserve heat by reducing the blood flow to the hands and feet. For those who live in a winter-weather area, it's that familiar tingle or numbness felt when hands and feet start getting cold.

That reduced blood supply equates to reduced dexterity in the fingers and hands, for example, which can hinder performance of simple tasks, such as screwing in a light bulb, opening a door or steering a vehicle out of a tight parking spot. A warm interior and a toasty steering wheel may also eliminate the need for heavy gloves while driving, which can further reduce tactile sensitivity and dexterity.

Warm my ride

Ford currently offers two dealer-installed remote start options: a one-way system, which will remotely start the vehicle from a key fob from up to 1,000 feet away; and a two-way, bidirectional option, in which the vehicle transmits a signal back to the fob verifying the start-up.

Launching later this month is an optional system that's compatible with the Intelligent Access with Push Button Start system available on the 2010 Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS, soon followed by the factory-installed system.

The 2011 Lincoln MKX will be first to offer the heated steering wheel option, and when combined with the factory-installed remote start system, it will also activate the heat on the steering wheel for that warm-to-the-touch winter morning welcome.

"Ford's vehicles are constantly becoming more advanced," said FCSD's Kan. "So we're always adapting and changing our products to keep up."

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 200,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company.