The Hurricane is back.
A year after Ford Motor Co. killed its planned Hemi-fighting V-8 to the
dismay of horsepower junkies, Ford Americas group chief Mark Fields has
put the high-performance engine back in the company's product
pipeline, according to sources familiar with the project.
Fields revived the engine three months ago as part of a new
restructuring plan for the automaker. The decision offers a telling
insight into how serious Fields is about shaking things up at Ford,
underscoring his repeated assertions that nothing is off the table when
it comes to reshaping the automaker's troubled North American auto
operations, which lost $1.6 billion last year.
Ford nixed the Hurricane project because of concerns about development
costs and rising gasoline prices. Now, Fields has decided that
maintaining Ford's leadership in the pickup truck market against
mounting challenges from rivals General Motors Corp. and
DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group trumps those concerns.
Many analysts were dismayed by Ford's decision to halt development of
the Hurricane, which will likely get a new name before hitting the
"It was a dumb program to kill," said Jim Hall, an analyst with
AutoPacific in Southfield. Hall said Ford got spooked by soaring fuel
prices last spring, which seemed to spell bad news for thirsty
high-horsepower engines. However, he said long-term analysis shows
that, while demand for big engines may ebb and flow as a result of
gasoline prices or other factors, it remains steady over time.
Erich Merkle, a brand analyst with IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids, is not
surprised Ford decided to revive the Hurricane.
"They've got to do something from a powertrain perspective if
they're going to hold on to the F-series' lead," he said, noting
that both GM and Chrysler have more powerful engines on the market,
particularly in their trucks and sport utilities.
"Ford has nothing," Merkle said. "Without those bigger options,
they are going to have a hard time competing."
Ford does have some big engines, but none that can compete with the
425-horsepower 6.1-liter Hemi or the 403-horsepower Vortec that will
equip the 2007 Cadillac Escalade SUV. With its 300-horsepower Triton,
Ford's2007 Lincoln Navigator will have a hard time keeping up with
When it comes to engines, few have captured the public's imagination
like Chrysler's Hemi.
The Hemi's roots go back to the 1950s, but the vaunted powerhouse
disappeared from production cars in 1974, a victim of new government
fuel economy requirements. Chrysler reintroduced a new Hemi in the 2003
Dodge Ram Heavy Duty pickup.
Ford wants theHurricane to more than a match these engines and help
ensure the automaker stays on top of the hotly-contested truck segment.
As Chrysler has shown with Hemi, however, automakers also can command a
price premium for high-performance powertrains. That means the
Hurricane could help Ford's bottom line.
Merkle said Ford's Cleveland casting plant has received orders for a
new 6.2-liter engine block, with work to begin next year.
"We believe that would be the Hurricane," he said.
However, the Hurricane is not likely to make landfall before 2008. It
will probably debut in Ford's F-series pickups. A team has visited
Ford's Dearborn Truck factory, where F-150s are made, to assess what
changes will be needed to accommodate the new engine on the line there.
But sources say the Hurricane also will be used in other platforms.
NoOp Comment: You can bet one platform will be the Mustang to ensure it
matches up with two upcoming pony cars -- i.e. 6.1L Challenger and 6.0L
Camaro. Paraphasing a line in the movie Animal House, 'Oh man, this is
going to be good!'
While Ford's engine may not incorporate the sort of cylinder
deactivation system found in the Hemi and Vortec, sources say it will
offer similar fuel economy.
Other approaches that could be used to realize these gains include
using the sort of multi-valve systems found on some German engines.
Whatever method Ford employs, the emphasis will remain on horsepower.