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The Warranty Insights

Ford has created some of the world's toughest road conditions at its Lommel test track

23 June 2016

With UK roads suffering a pothole epidemic, Ford believes it is time well spent. Drivers now suffer more pothole damage than ever with in excess of 25,000 pothole-related breakdowns in 2015 alone. The worst damage is usually to shock absorbers, wheels and suspension.

In the Autumn Statement Chancellor George Osborne responded with a "pothole fund", setting aside £250 million for road maintenance and repair, up to the end of the decade. It was dismissed by the AA as a "sticking-plaster approach to a massive maintenance backlog", while the 2016 Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey said roads were deteriorating faster than they can be repaired, with nearly £12 billion needed to get roads in England and Wales up to scratch.

The extent they go to at Lommel

The results recorded at Lommel assist Ford in making sure they build cars equal to the punishment that deteriorating roads dish out. With jagged cobblestones, vicious railroad crossings, sand-strewn potholes, craters, humpback bridges, to name but a few.

The potholes are located by technicians who pore over worldwide warranty claims filed by customers reporting component failures. They are recorded and later - as Ford's team of flying inspectors tours from country to country - physically inspected, enabling offending potholes to be faithfully documented, photographed and digitally scanned.

Technicians painstakingly recreate each pothole in metal and concrete - down to the last millimetre - before embedding meticulous copies in the test track.

The facilities at Lommel enable the recording the stresses and strains exerted on individual components as a fleet of 230 vehicles (including rival manufacturers', for benchmarking) is pummelled over 80kms of artificial surfaces by specially trained drivers working in never-ending shifts.

All manufacturers' subject new models to similar punishment but Ford's unique pothole archive has made it the envy of handling and durability engineers across the motoring industry.

The data is analysed and used to improve current or future models, making components stronger or more flexible or by fine-tuning sophisticated active chassis and suspension to cope with real-life conditions.

The cost of potholes in the last 12 months

Average cost to repair pothole damage is of course different region by region

Number of drivers reporting damage

Data source Daily Telegraph

Lommel Proving Ground (LPG) in Belgium is where for the past 40 years Ford replicates, in precise detail, some of the most diabolical road conditions from around the globe.