WOW_PrizesSo where exactly did those last 2 weeks go? Boy, I’ve been busy around here but I’m finally able to get around to the report on NAIAS I promised you.

For those who may not know me or been following my blog, there’s something you should know about me.  I LOVE FORD.  That’s right, I’ll lay that down right now, I bleed blue.  I was brought home as a baby in a 1967 Ford Mustang, my oldest daughter came home from the hospital in a 2001 Ford F-150 and my youngest daughter in a 2007 Ford Explorer Sport-Trac.  This is a Ford family.  Knowing that, you can imagine that there are a few things in life that as a Ford fan, one would like a chance to see but sometimes it’s just hard to make happen.  One of those bucket list items has been to go to the famous Detroit Auto Show (also known as NAIAS, the North American International Auto Show) and visit some Ford stomping grounds.  We’ll get back to that in a bit…

IRNHIDE_WOWI try to stay active and keep up on what’s happening in the world of Ford and one of those ways is through social media.  Ford’s been running a campaign called “We Own Work” recently and it’s aimed straight at the truck enthusiast crowd like me.  One component of the campaign is Ford owners showing off their pride and joy by creating a card with their truck’s pic and details.  Given it’s driven by the community, people vote monthly on their favorite truck and the top winners get a nice gift from the folks at Ford.  I was fortunate enough to be one of those lucky winners a few months ago and get a killer t-shirt and custom embroidered jacket to boot. Pretty righteous I thought. Have you Ford truck owners entered your truck?  As you are about to find out…there are plenty of reasons to do so, and it’s not just free schwag.

Fast forward to early December. I receive an email that I thought FOR SURE had to be bogus.  Someone trying to tell me that based on my participation on the Ford Social site, Ford wanted to fly me and a guest out to the Detroit Auto Show, all expenses paid.  Yeah right.  I’m a skeptic by nature, so I wasn’t sure what to believe. I was soooooo hoping deep inside that this was real, that I started doing my geek thing and checking email headers, tracing IP addresses, looking at trace routes, DNS and such…and wouldn’t you know it, they all checked out and went where the guy in the email said he was from, Team Detroit.  For those that don’t know, this is the ad agency that handles a lot of campaigns for Ford such as the We Own Work and many more.  At that point, I was dying a little inside and praying this would be real.  I made the call, and a human answered.  Good sign right?  I meet this nice chap by the name of Cole.  Immediately my brain associates him with Cole Trickle, which one of you racing fans knows where that name comes from?  🙂  So we proceeded to have a nice conversation and confirm that this was no joke.  I simply couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Before long, I was in touch with the coordinators of the event from Ford and had to give them my details, including who was going with me.

So most folks think the natural choice would be my wife.  You’d be wrong…she’s not hard core about cars like I am and she wasn’t at all interested in going.  I had to choose from all of my good friends which would really not only appreciate this kind of event, but one for whom this was also a bucket list item.  The list was short, but I knew it had to be one buddy in particular, Kevin.  He is also my service manager at Bickford Ford and you could say lives, breathes and eats Ford. He’s also a fellow blogger at Final Point Logic so he was a natural for the event. This was poised to be an epic trip and one we would both remember for ever.

RomulusUpon arrival in Detroit, I immediately thought we had been diverted and landed on an alien planet.  As we were coming in, all I saw from above were frozen lakes and snow.  What the heck was that? We don’t have that in Seattle! An entire lake frozen over? Nonsense.  And upon looking at my phone, I see we are in some place called Romulus.  ROMULUS?  WTF!!! I was waiting for Klingons to appear at any moment. As I exited the plane with a raised eyebrow, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Now, I’ve never been to Detroit, and of course, we all hear the stories about it (not necessarily the good kind).  What I saw was one of the most modern looking and fantastic airport terminals I’ve ever been in.  Complete with a Delta monorail from one end to the other!  The hotel for the venue, the Westin, was also actually IN the terminal, complete with it’s own TSA security checkpoint for maximum convenience in departing the airport.  Pretty darn snazzy if I do say so myself.  The folks at Ford know how to host an event. I’ve been to more conferences than I care to and Ford had the check-in process down pat.  Very smooth and expeditious. We were greeted by cheerful faces and given our credentials and some pretty nifty swag.  Things were already looking up.

Ford Swag

Kevin and I then dropped our gear off in our rooms and grabbed a quick lunch with the rest of the Ford bloggers and had a little down time to relax.  Dinner that evening was a hoot.  The gang of over 120 bloggers from over 41 countries was all in the room and socializing.  I think the open bar and endless flow of booze provided a nice way to break the ice and meet new friends. Before dinner, Ford’s social media grand poobah, Scott Monty kicked things off and we were treated to “the Moth Storytelling Presentation” which was pretty neat. Dinner followed with desert and more socializing before calling it a night.  Monday morning would come early and would make for one heck of a long day.

 

Captains Log – Monday, January 13, 2014: The day started off promptly with breakfast at 0530hrs. Damnit, I haven’t been up at this early hour of the morning since boot camp.  Ok, well…I got up earlier to catch the flight to Detroit, but this better not become a habit.  We gathered for chow in the lobby with the rest of the Ford Bloggeratti and loaded up on buses for Joe Louis Arena and were rolling by 0645hrs.  Now I’ve lived and driven in some traffic nightmare cities but Detroit was putting a whole new meaning to wacky drivers that morning.

We must have had no less than half a dozen cars dive-bomb our bus and literally just not give a hoot that there was a BUS in their way, all of this on icy roads no less.  This is when I thank God I work from home, not sure how folks handle those kinds of commutes.

We arrive at the arena just in time to make our way to the Ford F-150 Press Conference.  And boy was that impressive!  I usually go to tech geek conferences where the reveal is a gadget, this was something special though.  To see when they revealed the new 2015 Ford F-150 and those trucks came busting through the walls, that was simply put…AWESOME!  Immediately following the press conference we were able to make our way down to the floor and get some hands-on time with the trucks.  It was a mad house. People were all over it, the arena was electrified with buzz and activity, all wanting to get a piece of that new F-150 action.  Upon closer examination of the truck, it’s no wonder what all the buzz was about.  The truck was simply amazing.  I own a 2011 F-150 EcoBoost as many of you may know, and I honestly thought that would be the last truck I bought for a very long time.  I have to tell you, I’m looking at that upgrade already.  What a phenomenal piece of automotive goodness this truck will be.  Many of the things I have wished would have been done have been addressed.  I won’t cover all the details here, you can find that all over the web and some of the details have yet to be revealed, such as the improved towing numbers.  For me, that’s a big one.  I tow a travel trailer that’s over 10,000 pounds and have zero problems, but sometimes wish I had a little more of a safety net and not so close to the limits.  This could very well be the answer.  Only one item that I can think of wasn’t addressed, which I personally would love to see improved in a dramatic way, and that’s the SYNC system.  During the course of the day I actually had a chance to speak with Ford’s CEO, Alan Mulally, and ask him about the future of SYNC and mobile devices in our vehicles. he had some good things to say. You can see some of that in the video I’ve linked to below (click here for the full official story on Ford Social):

The rest of the day was spent in a variety of Ford breakout sessions on everything from the Ford Design Process, to future trends, sustainability, automation and new product deep dives.  In what has to be one of the more memorable evenings in my life (as if the day wasn’t already epic enough), we were able to attend a very special session that evening with some of my favorite Ford racing drivers and legends both present day, and those that I have watched growing up as a kid.  I was able to personaly meet and spend time with the likes of Ned Jarrett, Dale Jarrett, John Force, Jamie Allison, Vaughn Gitten Jr., Brian Deegan, Greg Foutz and NASCAR Champion Brad Keselowski!!! To top that off we spent time with Hollywood celebs from the upcoming movie “Need For Speed” and watched a 20 minute preview of the film.  Dinner was fantastic, with another open bar and good times with new friends.

Captains Log – Tuesday, January 14, 2014: Well, Monday had gone down as one of the most epic days of my life so I wasn’t sure how Ford could top that off in the half day we had remaining.  We got a bit of a break and breakfast started at 0630hrs that day before we were shuttled off to the Dearborn Inn. Interesting hotel with a ton of history. We were split up into two groups and went off to do our thing.  This morning we were put into groups and given certain vehicles to drive based on our personalities and interests.  I’ll give you one guess at what I drove?  You got it, a new 2014 F-150 EcoBoost.  Overall, a nice upgrade from mine as I have an FX4 and the one I drove was a Platinum.  But this was no ordinary test drive.  I was hoping we were going to do something on the test track, but to my pleasant surprise, got something even better.  We were given a route to navigate upon getting in our respective trucks.  It wasn’t until we were approaching the final destination when it hit us…we were at the Ford Rouge Factory where the F-150 and Raptor is made!!!  Being the geek that I am, I just happened to have my iPad with me where I had a copy of my window sticker.  A quick look revealed what I suspected, ROUGE was the plant where my F-150 was born!!! This was going to be a truly special day.  We proceeded to get a VIP tour of the plant with several Ford representatives that were there to answer our every question along the way.  We learned some amazing facts about not just Ford, but the factory and how eco-friendly it actually is.  People have this misconception about auto factories being these insane pollution plants and nothing could be further from the truth.

A glimpse into the Ford Rouge Factory in Dearborn, MI:

After getting the grand tour, we drove back to the Dearborn Inn for some additional breakout sessions. The first session was spectacular, I had chosen to attend The Design Process: Mustang from Concept to Final Product.  In this session I was able to meet the lead designer on the mustang, Kemal Curic, and learn about his vision and how the new Mustang came to life.  We were also fortunate enough to meet many of the other members of the design team and learn about every aspect of the design process.  As a User Experience Designer, this was fascinating to me.  It was a completely different world view of what I do applied to a different field.  Loved every minute of this session.  The guys from Stangtv.com were there with me and captured a great clip on the interior design process:

And a few pics of the design session from my Google+ albums:

From there, my next session was on Big Data. This session dove into how data collected from products and customers becomes the catalyst for future design and planning.  Another one that as a computer geek working for the worlds largest database company, simply had me mesmerized.  It’s jaw dropping to see the amount of data flowing through Ford on a daily basis and how they are able to siphon out the important bits and be able to apply that data in the proper context.  Data for a guy like me is everything, it’s how we quantify what we do and know if our designs are making an impact and our users are getting what they want.  Overall an incredibly awesome day to top off an amazing 3 days. From there it was time to grab a quick lunch and head back to the airport and hotel.

Here are some additional Ford highlight pics from the show:

I can’t thank the folks at Team Detroit and Ford enough for this amazing opportunity. They made it possible to take at least one of my bucket list items off the list and for that I’m grateful. I hope I can be part of that group of bloggers again and be able to report back to you folks on all the cool future products coming out of Ford.  Hope you enjoyed the report.

Frank