Questions, comments, snide remarks? Please, tell us what's on your mind by filling out a form and dropping it in the suggestion box on your wait out the door. While such items may be rather common at certain retail establishments, finding such a direct line to the people that run America's largest automotive companies... well, that's just a new idea entirely, no?

Today at the SAE World Congress, Mark Fields, Ford president of the Americas, announced just such a program, which includes a new web portal that allows consumers to leave suggestions for the Ford Motor Company and even lets other users log in and rate the submitted ideas. Currently at the top? A suggestion to bring the ECOnetic diesel engines to America. Agree? Click here to let Ford know what you think.

We'll throw a vote in the direction of more diesels in America any day of the week. And as long as we've Ford's attention, how about offering rally-spec Focus hatchbacks in the States? We'd also be more than happy to see a Super High Output version of the Fusion, complete with the 365-horsepower EcoBoost engine and all-wheel drive system from the Taurus SHO. Oh, and just one more thing... nice work on the SVT Raptor. Click past the break for the complete press release.

[Source: Ford]
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FORD ENGAGES CUSTOMERS IN "WHAT'S NEXT," TAKING COMPANY'S OPEN INNOVATION MODEL TO NEXT LEVEL
  • Ford launches "Your Ideas" on its interactive consumer site, The Ford story (www.thefordstory.com), welcoming visitors to submit, share, review and rate each other's automotive feature ideas
  • The Web portal is Ford's latest demonstration of collaborative efforts to engage 'automotive outsiders' to help share ideas, develop the next must-have technologies, and drive the spirit of open innovation
  • Ford has been actively modernizing its Advanced Product Marketing, Planning and Innovation Research community to include suppliers, universities and more non-automotive technology experts

DEARBORN, Mich., April 13, 2010 – Ford is tapping into one of the world's greatest and vast resources – consumers – to discover the next-best automotive ideas and technologies.

Marking today's opening of the SAE World Congress, Mark Fields, Ford president, The Americas, announced the launch of a new initiative that furthers the company's commitment to open innovation. The new "Your Ideas" section of The Ford Story (www.thefordstory.com), the brand's interactive consumer Web site, will invite visitors to submit, share and suggest ideas and technologies they believe fit in the automotive space.

"Ford continues to push the envelope when it comes to engaging consumers in what's next for Ford cars and trucks," Fields said. "We are going beyond traditional consumer market research, studies and focus groups. Ford is turning to the social Web as an innovative way of generating new vehicle feature ideas customers really want and value."

The pilot session of "Your Ideas" gives consumers the ability to participate in a community-based setting where they can review and rate posted ideas and track what people think about their own suggestions. Ideas that receive the most "thumbs ups" from viewers will be elevated to a most-popular idea list and reviewed by Ford's Advanced Product Marketing and Planning teams.

The "Your Ideas" forum covers the automotive gamut, soliciting consumer suggestions on categories ranging from vehicle connectivity and comfort and convenience to fuel economy to performance and safety.

Space for sharing
Since The Ford Story went live in 2008, the site has logged more than 2.6 million visits, offering passionate Ford owners and those new to the brand the opportunity to post their favorite Ford story, photos and videos; comment about the company's latest news and products; locate all of the company's social networking accounts; watch videos and more.

"The Ford Story has connected with customers because it's a place where Ford is sharing what is happening with the company is a more open and transparent way," Fields said. "Through the site, people are telling us they feel a new unity with Ford because they can share their thoughts, stories and insights and take part in two-way dialogue with the people behind our products."

The announcement of the new idea exchange portal and Ford's increased effort to directly engage customers in the 'What's Next?' conversation dovetails with the 2010 SAE World Congress in Detroit, which is themed "Ecollaboration."

Fields helped promote the theme of the premier engineering industry conference on Tuesday morning, speaking about how Ford is embracing greater collaboration with not only customers but other "automotive outsiders" as it develops the high-impact products that customers want and value.

"What a better time or place than World Congress to discuss how Ford is committed to working together toward innovation?" said Fields.

"This conference is one of the biggest opportunities of the year for the exchange of ideas, providing our engineers the chance to evaluate new technologies and services from companies and sources they haven't worked with before," he added.

Opening doors
Ford's overarching adoption of the open innovation model made popular by social media, software developers and technology companies has already generated impressive relationships with a growing list of who's who in the worlds of academia, suppliers, consumer electronics and information technology. Just as impressive are the results and ongoing research projects attached to these relationships.

Ford is currently working with the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, for instance, on the "American Journey 2.0" advanced research project to help define the next frontier of in-car communications. The student collaboration is aimed at responsible development of social networking apps for the car and could help Ford model future iterations of Ford SYNC.

Participating students will show off their course work this spring on a developmental software platform dubbed "Fiestaware" built with the help of Microsoft and powered by Intel. Student teams will compete by programming applications that showcase innovative ways to access social networks for contextually-relevant data, plus share vehicle-specific information that could help others. The winning student team will make a road trip to the 2010 Maker Faire, the world's largest do-it-yourself convention, driving a new Ford Fiesta testing their new apps along the way.

Along with U of M, Ford also has strategic alliances with MIT as well as universities across the globe, including two of China's most prestigious and recognized, Shanghai Jiaotong University and Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, where joint work with aluminum alloys and other advanced materials is being conducted. A formal Ford strategic alliance with The Boeing Company has also existed for the past 15 years, resulting in numerous and valuable collaborative efforts. Boeing, in fact, recently announced that it's ready to build its first prototype of Phantom Eye, a high altitude long endurance unmanned aircraft powered by two Ford-developed hydrogen-powered Duratec 4-cylinder engines.

Ford has also opened its doors wider to suppliers. Two years ago, Ford created the Joint Technology Framework, which provides designated suppliers special access to Ford intellectual properties so they can develop products for future commercial use. As a result, Ford is making significant progress in several key automotive research areas, including ultrasonic welding, alternative bonding technologies and new processes for reducing wheel weight.

Newer to the mix is Ford's aggressive outreach to consumer electronic and technology experts such as Microsoft and Nuance Communications as the company looks for new and innovative ways to leverage existing technologies and cloud computing services by integrating them into the car. These relationships helped Ford build its successful in-car connectivity platform, Ford SYNC, which has now become the operating system behind all-new MyFord Touch driver interface.

"Innovation has always played a major role at Ford," said Gerhard Schmidt, Ford chief technical officer and vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering. "We don't believe that any one company or industry has a monopoly on good ideas; we embrace the fact that every good idea for our customers doesn't have to start with us."