Ford leading the American car revivalThe Ford story in 2010 is as much about American perserverance as it is about making cars. The storied American company is the only domestic automaker to refuse government bailout money and to avoid bankruptcy. That resonates with some customers. More importantly Ford is emerging from a privately financed corporate restructuring plan with some pretty nifty cars and trucks and analysts think the company is well on the road to recovery. "We're in the forefront of the automotive industry in terms of product development, technology, green-ness, efficiency and safety," said Kevin Lamarr, the sales manager at Western Slope Ford. As consumers become better acquainted with the new Ford and its sister companies, Lincoln and Mercury, Lemarr hopes they'll stop by Western Slope Ford before they commit to buying another vehicle "and see what kind of world-class products are available to them." Take the Ford Taurus, a flagship model that is bigger and restyled this model year. "There are so many features available on the Taurus that you can't get on even higher-end cars," Lemarr said. The high-performance Taurus SHO -- now with a 365-horsepower, 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged, EcoBoost gasoline V-6 rather than a V-8 -- returns to the lineup. Ford kept the starting retail price for the Taurus steady, even while adding space and comfort to the four-door car for this model year. The standard engine is a 263-horsepower, 3.5-liter, Duratec V-6, and there's a long list of available high-tech features including cruise control that uses radar to automatically slow the Taurus on the highway if it's closing on a vehicle ahead too quickly. There's also a MyKey feature that lets parents restrict or set warnings on some activities when teens are behind the wheel. For example, MyKey can limit radio volume and activate speed warning alerts. The Taurus is but one example of Ford's commitment to building cars consumers want to drive, Lemarr said. According to J.D. Power and Associates, the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands improved in its 2009 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, the industry's top study measuring customer satisfaction in design, content, and vehicle performance. Results from the study show the Ford brand improving by 17 points and moving up six rank positions among nameplates from last year. The Lincoln brand improved by 18 points and climbed two spots in the survey from a year ago. Mercury improved by eight points. Ken Simon, the general manager at Western Slope Auto (which also sells Toyotas) says the dealership is well equipped to weather a tough market because of its wide selection of vehicles and commitment to customer service. "We have an all-new interactive Web site that's designed to make it easier for customers to get the kind of information they want," he said. Customers can peruse models, see what different paint jobs and custom options look like and easily contact sales reps. There's even a virtual test drive component. The dealership has always sold a lot of trucks. That will continue to be the case with Ford popular F series, Simon said. But consumers are trending toward smaller, fuel-efficient cars and Western Slope has the goods. The Ford Fusion is restyled and updated. The result is a mid-size sedan with attractive looks, an improved interior and a more powerful four-cylinder engine than before. The base, 2.5-liter four banger cranks out 175 horses, and if that's not enough, a 263-horsepower, 3-liter V-6 is available for the Fusion. Fusion also adds a gas-electric hybrid model for 2010, and its gas mileage rating of 41/36 mpg from the federal government is noteworthy because it puts the Fusion Hybrid and its sibling Mercury Milan Hybrid sedans at the top of mid-size sedans in fuel mileage in the country. Another new model in 2010 is the F-150 SVT Raptor full-size pickup truck. It's a high-performance, off-road truck with a 310-horsepower, 5.4-liter V-8 and later, an even more powerful 6.2-liter V-8. The inspiration for the sporty Raptor comes from desert race trucks. Small business owners or anyone with an offbeat taste in vehicles will want to check out the 2010 Ford Transit Connect. It looks like a delivery van, but it's a much smaller, handier size. The Transit Connect is powered by a fuel-thrifty, 136-horsepower, 2-liter four cylinder. "It's a perfect delivery vehicle," Simon said. Ford's well-known Mustang is freshened for 2010 with mild upgrades, inside and out. Suspension is revised a bit as well. The Mustang GT's 4.6-liter V-8 adds 15 more horses, for a total of 315 horsepower. The styling updates to the regular, 2010 Mustangs carry through to the high-performance Shelby GT500, where horsepower from the 5.4-liter V-8 now peaks at 540 and torque climbs to 510 foot-pounds. Suspension and clutch also are revised. The 2010 Edge gets engine refinements that improve fuel mileage, while the 2010 Escape can be had with an electronic system that parallel parks the car by itself with a touch of a button. Trailer Sway Control is added as standard equipment on Ford's Explorer, Explorer Sport Trac and Expedition SUVs this year to help keep trailers being towed behind the vehicles stable. The Flex crossover SUV, meantime, adds the availability of a 355-horsepower, 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged, EcoBoost V-6 and a six-speed automatic transmission. Ford's smallest car, the Focus, gets standard electronic stability control, traction control and antilock brakes on all models. Meanwhile, Lincoln and Mercury have freshened several models. There's no way to confuse Lincoln's newest model with anything else. The 2010 MKT crossover SUV wears a sizable, split waterfall-styled grille and a boattail rear. At 17.3 feet long, it's full-size and has three rows of separate, roomy seats for a maximum passenger count of six. And it weighs nearly 5,000 pounds. Inside, there are luxury touches and a list of technology options that will please techies. Based on the Ford Flex crossover, the MKT isn't powered by a V-8, though. It's offered with two V-6s. The base, 3.7-liter powerplant provides 268 horses, while the 3.5-liter, turbocharged, EcoBoost V-6 delivers a healthy 355 horsepower. All-wheel drive also is available. Lincoln's flagship sedan, the MKS, gets an additional engine offering this model year: the 355-horsepower, 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged, EcoBoost V-6 that's available in the MKT. This engine has direct injection for efficient use of fuel and provides the five-passenger MKS with notable 17/25-mpg mileage ratings from the federal government. Also for 2010, all MKZs get spruced-up front styling and interior. Mercury's top-selling car, the Milan, has freshened styling inside and out. The Milan's lineup also expands this year to include a gasoline-electric model that, along with its Ford Fusion sibling, ranks tops in fuel mileage among mid-size sedans. Specifically, the 2010 Milan Hybrid uses a 156-horsepower, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine working with a 106-horsepower electric motor. The federal government fuel economy rating for this model is 41/36 mpg. Meantime, the Mercury Mariner gets additional safety features, including outside Spotter Mirrors that use secondary convex spotter areas in the top outer corners of the outside mirrors to help a driver detect cars in the blind spots to the rear side of the car. The Mariner Hybrid, along with its Ford Escape Hybrid twin, is expected to retain the title as America's top SUVs in fuel mileage with government ratings of 34/31 mpg in city/highway travel. The Associated Press provided some vehicle model ion for this story.