Recently, on a trip to Florida, I was having a discussion about my 2015 Ford Fusion Titanium. The gentleman next to me on the flight had worked in the automotive business for years. He mentioned the only thing he disliked about my car was the placement of the gear shifter and cup holders. Whenever he had coffee, he tended to bump into it when shifting into park.
He smiled and said I should be prepared, just in case I ever had a hot beverage. He spilled coffee one day, trying to put a rental Fusion into park.
I always wash my car when I get home from a business trip. I shine it up, then take a cruise on M-10 or down Woodward Avenue. Also, I’m rarely without my Detroit Lions plastic mug with a bright blue straw. I fill it with water before I go anywhere.
It’s my adult sippy cup. Don’t judge . . .
I swing into Classic Auto Wash in nearby Allen Park and, as I reach for the gearshift, slam my hand (for the first time mind you) right into my Lions mug. Ouch! I flashed back to the guy on the plane and saw him laughing like a mad scientist. Thanks to our conversation, I am now a center console hypochondriac, fearful I will jam my hand again.
Cupful of Comfort
Believe it or not, cup holders are just as important as engine performance, ride quality, and fuel efficiency. Ford has changed the 2017 Fusion accordingly, replacing the traditional shifter with a rotary dial. The new cup holders are now one in front of the other, instead of side by side. The front cup holder also moves 6 inches forward, allowing the armrest to extend nearly 3 inches. This increases the armrest bin capacity by a half-gallon.
A Ford study found most “cups” are either the half-liter recyclable water bottle, the 20-ounce plastic bottle, and the 30-ounce soft-drink cup from fast food eateries and gas stations. If a cup holder can accommodate those, it can likely hold anything.
“Being dissatisfied with your cup holders may be a minor annoyance, but it’s a daily one, which over time detracts from the overall car experience,” said Jolanta Coffey, Ford Instrument Panel and Console Manager. “On the other hand, when you like your cup holders, they can make your vehicle feel like home.”
A recent Nielsen survey indicated that 79 percent of Americans use cup holders for bottles. 52 percent say they typically use cup holders to carry hot beverages like coffee and tea. Ford’s research showed North American customers are more likely to have large soft-drinks in the vehicle as opposed to any other area of the world.
The most common non-beverage item placed in a cup holder is, not surprisingly, a smartphone. Roughly half say they use their cup holder to store a mobile device.
28 percent use cup holders for loose change while 19 percent use them for food – hopefully not at the same time as loose change. 14 percent use cup holders for gum or mints while 12 percent use them to hold their wallet. Millennials and teens are more likely to use cup holders for non-beverage items.
Hold That Cup Holder
I remember my old F-150 with the cup holder console on the floor. Looking back now, I think it was pretty convenient. I also had custom wheels and large dual pipes on that truck so I probably overlooked the cup holders. In the small, rural Iowa community I grew up in, big engines, big tires, and big trucks ruled.
Cup holders were an afterthought if a thought at all.
My buddies in those days would cruise with one hand on the wheel and another on a two liter of Mr. Pibb. There wasn’t a cup holder big enough, nor did a person think to brag about the placement of their cup holder, relative to the modern, vehicle sensory experience. And by the time autonomous cars arrive, cup holders may again be an afterthought.
I’m not likely to put my phone in one anyway. I will be too busy Googling the recipe for Mr. Pibb on my drive.
*Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan.