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Accentuating the positive, Ford has announced broad sweeping changes to its electrified vehicle program. In amongst these are software upgrades to hopefully enable improved fuel economy from its C-Max, Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.
As has been well publicized, lawsuits have followed claims of “47 mpg” for the two Ford models, and as we outline below, software upgrades are intended to help improve their real world efficiency.
On the purely positive side, Ford notes its share of the U.S. electrified vehicle market has quadrupled in the past year, and the company also announced it’s hiring new engineers, and expanding its research facilities for expected continued growth.
Improving the product
Ford said it is taking action to improve the on-road fuel economy performance of 2013-model hybrid vehicles in the United States and Canada.
Starting in August, the company will make calibration updates designed to improve on-road fuel economy for owners of the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.
“We are committed to continuously improving the fuel economy of our vehicles,” said Nair. “We believe these actions will provide our customers enhanced on-road fuel economy satisfaction.”
Calibration updates to Ford hybrid vehicles include control system enhancements for a variety of driving conditions on the highway, during short trips and while using the climate control system.
Ford said enhancements designed to improve customer satisfaction include (as listed by Ford):
- Increasing the maximum pure electric speed to 85 mph from 62 mph, allowing increased use of electric-only mode on the highway
- Optimizing the use of Active Grille Shutters to reduce aerodynamic drag under more driving and temperature conditions including cold weather, during air conditioner use and when the engine coolant temperature is higher
- Reducing the electric fan speed as a function of coolant temperature to minimize the fan’s energy consumption
- Shortening engine warm-up time by up to 50 percent to enable electric-only driving and engine shutdown at stops sooner after cold starts
- Optimizing the climate control system to minimize use of the air conditioning compressor and reduce the energy used in cold weather operation
“Just as individual mileage can vary based on driving styles and environmental conditions, we expect fuel economy improvements will differ from customer to customer depending on individual driving habits,” said Nair. “Customers should see the most improvement at highway speeds, during air conditioner use and operation in colder climates.”
To fuel this growth and keep the momentum, Ford also will expand its electrification engineering team by nearly 50 percent this year, growing to 500 salaried employees.
Further, the company is investing an additional $50 million in electrified product development and testing centers in Dearborn.
Ford will double electrification battery-testing capabilities by the end of the year – to a total of 160 individual battery-test cells – helping to speed hybrid and electric vehicle development by as much as 25 percent.
This year, Ford’s share of the U.S. electrified vehicle market is up 12 share points to nearly 16 percent.
“Strong consumer acceptance of Ford hybrids shows that our plan to lead in fuel economy across our lineup is working,” said Raj Nair, group vice president, Global Product Development. “Our commitment to deliver great fuel economy in our cars, utilities and trucks is a key reason we are seeing strong growth in coastal markets and with import buyers.”
Ford reported electrified vehicle sales of 46,197 units through June – more than 400 percent higher than the same period a year ago.
Ford C-MAX Hybrid and Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid are helping drive this growth. C-Max is drawing new buyers in coastal markets and in Florida and Texas, as Toyota Prius U.S. sales have declined 5 percent, Ford so gladly points out. Meanwhile, the Ford brand had the largest retail share increase in California of any brand during the first five months of 2013, based on the latest Polk retail registration data.
Last month, 64 percent of C-Max Hybrid buyers came from non-Ford brands. Ford said that in fact, the vehicle most traded in for a Ford C-Max is Toyota Prius.
Lincoln MKZ also is bringing new customers into Ford’s showrooms. Strong demand has led Lincoln to increase the production mix of MKZ Hybrid to 40 percent of MKZ production, up from 20 percent.
The Ford brand also achieved the fastest retail share growth of any automotive brand on the coasts, up almost 2.5 percentage points compared with 2008, based on Ford’s analysis of Polk retail registration data.
One example the company brought forward is the Ford brand’s coastal retail passenger car share, which is up more than 1 percentage point and growing at about three times the rate of the industry.
Another success is in what Ford calls the “super segment” – small cars, midsize sedans and small utilities that have fueled 42 percent of the company’s overall growth since 2008. Ford’s small cars, (Fiesta, Focus and C-Max) totaled 35,851 sales last month, a 39 percent increase over last year and the company’s best June small car sales in 13 years.
The Ford Fusion has seen record sales for the first half of the year, and the Escape continues to be the best-selling utility in America – posting record sales the last five months.