Think the manufacturers don't pay close attention to the comments folks post on the bulletin boards about their trucks? Think again. Here is a story about what Ford Motor Company did to take advantage of the Internet's power to gather a community of pickup truck enthusiasts for some one-on-one feedback with Ford engineers.
This is how it all started.
Ford Motor Company is constantly checking out the bulletin boards at various web sites that cover their products to see what the latest buzz and feedback is on their vehicle lineup.
About 4 months ago, Mike Donofrio, a regular message poster at FordRanger.com, made some comments about how his new Ranger had not reached his expectations like the previous Ranger he had owned. Greg Dabkowski, the Supervising Engineer for the Ford Ranger Project Team, was reading the site and came across Mike's post on the board. Greg made a copy of the post and gave every engineer on the Ranger team a copy. Greg
then called Mike and talked about doing a conference call with some Ranger owners and the project engineers but Mike had one idea better and suggested that Ford fly several owners and have them sit down and talk face-to-face with the engineers.
After that conversation Greg Dabkowski got in touch with Robert Fox, Sysadmin at FordRanger.com, and asked him for a list of Ranger owners who would have a good overall knowledge of the Ranger or have had older Rangers in the past and own a newer truck now. Robert gave Greg a list of candidates and from that list eight Ranger owners and enthusiasts were picked to attend at roundtable discussion with Ford engineers in Dearborn, Michigan.. Of the eight invited one person was unable to attend. Ford generously provided the plane fare and hotel accommodations for the roundtable guests.
The purpose of the roundtable was to work with the Ranger owners face-to-face and learn from their experiences to help make the Ranger a better truck.
Here are some excerpts from the Ford Ranger Roundtable in their own words:
"Okay, First thing we did was go to the Ford Proving Grounds where we went to a small garage and met all the engineers that had something to do with the Ranger program. We had kind of a round table type meeting talking about everything that had to do with the Ranger. And I do mean EVERYTHING!...We talk for over 4 hours with the engineers. And Jim said it best, this wasn't a pony show. The engineers were listening to everything we had to say and they constantly took down notes."
"After the first part of the meeting, we were taken to the Advance Engineering Center where Ford does a lot of their R&D. This place was incredible! Some of the places they showed us was sound room where they had sound data from a Ranger and showed us how give the Ranger it's own distinct sound. So if you ever thought that all they do is put the motor in the truck and slap on an exhaust and how ever it sounds that's the way it is, then your wrong. They actually design how they want the truck to sound, then by tuning the intake and exhaust they try to reach the target sound design."
"There is a lot of good things to be looking for in the next generation of Ford Rangers. I feel really good about the future of the Ford Ranger program and the direction that it will be taking. Don't expect changes to happen over night, but you can sure bet that the engineers have the you in mind and as well as future Ranger owners. Mark said that there was so much that they wanted to tell us about the future of the Ranger and the plans they had for it, but they couldn't and it was really hard for them to keep it to themselves. That alone gave me a really positive vibe. Now they were careful with the words they said, but I am pretty sure we will not see a 5.0 in a Ranger because the basically told us that the days pushrod motor line up is slowly coming to an end. This means if we do see a V8 Ranger it more than likely be a 4.6L or a 3.9L (I have a feeling that they didn't let us ride in a LS8 just for the thrill of the ride, that's my opinion) or maybe some other type of V8 OHC motor."