Kudos keep rolling in for Ford Motor Co. these days. The automaker recently reported that it is has turned a corner and is profitable once again-third quarter profits were up 5 percent. The company also got good news fromConsumer Reports, which proclaimed Ford as “the only Detroit automaker with world-class reliability.”

Consumer Reports

A recent editorial in theChicago Tribune(ironically, the same newspaper that Henry Ford battled with back in 1919 during an infamous libel lawsuit that was sparked by an editorial) hailed Ford for “declining to ask for a life preserver” [in the form of a federal bailout] while its cross-town rivals were struggling to stay afloat at this time last year.

Ford has benefited from a strong lineup of new products. And, according to Alan Mulally, Ford’s president and CEO, the company reduced structural costs in its automotive sector by $1 billion in the third quarter, largely driven by “lower manufacturing and engineering costs.”

I hope Mulally and the other top brass in Dearborn remember that engineers helped make all this “happy news” happen. In fact, Ford is being lauded this week by the automotive division of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) for its innovative use of plastic materials. On Thursday, SPE will honor the men and women behind the 2010 Taurus sedan with its 2009 Vehicle Engineering Team Award.

According to Maria Ciliberti, the chair of the 2009 SPE Innovation Award, the Taurus beat out several all-electric passenger cars. It was selected “due to breadth of plastics-intensive innovations that benefit vehicle occupants through greater comfort, convenience, durability and safety, while also helping the environment by reducing weight (thereby improving fuel efficiency), eliminating paint . . ., increasing the use of recycled materials, and making greater use of carbon-sequestering bio-based resins and natural-fiber reinforcements . . . .”

Interior innovations on the vehicle include ultra-soft foam on the instrument panel to improve perceived craftsmanship, in addition to spray urethane skins on the instrument panel and door trim. The doors feature molded-in faux stitching to replicate the look and feel of fine leather, but with higher durability at lower cost.

Plastics-intensive exterior innovations on the new Taurus include the blind spot information system; a faster-cycle TPO fascia material; the EasyFuel capless refueling system; below-belt plastic brackets for door outer panels and door glass (replacing steel channels); a snap-in slider on the window regulator (the first in the industry) to satisfy the aggressive window design on the vehicle; and tri-extrusion outer belt weatherstrips.

I applaud all the Ford engineers involved with the Taurus program. Congratulations on winning the SPE award; keep up the good work. After a decade of nothing but gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles, it’s nice to see sedans getting some much-needed attention.