Ford announced yesterday that it will build a conventional hybrid and plug-in hybrid version of its C-Max vehicle for European customers. The two hybrid variants of the C-Max—a kind of small versatile family wagon—will be built in Ford’s Valencia plant in Spain. The hybrids are due in 2013, while the redesigned conventional C-Max and Grand C-Max models go on sale across Europe during the second half of 2010.
“We believe Europe will have hybrid growth, at a more modest rate, with higher emphasis on vehicles that plug-in.”
There are no announced plans for the C-Max hybrids to the United States, although Ford will produce a seven-seat gas version in Valencia that will head to North America in late 2011.
The C-Max hybrids—Ford’s first hybrids for Europe—are about three years away. Meanwhile, Toyota will this month begin production of the Auris hybrid at its Burnaston plant in the UK. The dedicated hybrid Auris shares the platform with the Corolla. It has scored about 60 mpg in the European test cycle and will be the first hybrid to enter full production in Europe.
Is this the beginning of a hybrid invasion in Europe? We touched base with Nancy Gioia, Ford’s director of global electrification, to learn more.
HybridCars.com: Does Ford expect the diesel-dominated European market to begin embracing hybrids and plug-in hybrids?
Gioia: Because Europe has a high penetration of diesel, we continue to have highly efficient, low CO2 diesel alternatives, such as our Econetic offerings and technologies, as our cornerstone across Europe. Our market feedback also shows interest in hybrids, plug-in hybrids and full battery electric vehicles. This is why we have expanded our electrification efforts to Europe to include all three—hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles—including Transit Connect Electric and Focus Electric.
Another key to our strategy is to “electrify” our highest volume global platforms, such as those for the Fusion and Mondeo [CD-size], or Focus, C-Max and Transit Connect [C-size]. This approach, versus a unique platform for one vehicle, provides scale and flexibility to meet the dynamic and changing market needs in the most affordable way for our customers.
How does Ford view the relative size and importance of the US market versus European market for hybrids and plug-in hybrids?
We anticipate the US market remaining the largest volume market for hybrids with growing interest in plug-in vehicles. We believe Europe will continue to have hybrid growth, at a more modest rate, with higher emphasis on vehicles that plug-in.
This is based on the different drive patterns in large cities—typically shorter distances—and in general efforts in cities such as Paris, London, Cologne, and others across Europe to implement charging infrastructure. The rate of market growth is highly dependent on making affordable customer driven products that meet their needs and longer term provide a reasonable payback or rational purchase.
Near- and mid-term, this will be greatly affected by the cost of the technology (primarily batteries, but also power electronics and motors), cost of energy (electricity or liquid fuels), vehicle taxation, other incentives or disincentives, connectivity value added capabilities, etc. This is why at Ford, we are developing a suite of electrified transportation solutions for our customers including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and full battery electric vehicles.
Will the C-Max hybrid and plug-in hybrid make it to the US?
The latest announcement is focused on our plans for Valencia, where we will be producing the company’s first hybrid model for European customers.
We have announced our next generation hybrid and first plug-in hybrid for North America to be launched in 2012. We will talk about the specifics of our plans for the North American market at a later time.
Any updates on the Focus Electric? Is it on schedule?
The Focus electric remains on schedule for production in late 2011. It will be built at the Michigan Assembly Plant that will have the capability to build Focus Electric, our future next generation hybrid and plug-in hybrid [specific vehicles not yet announced] and efficient gas Focus variations.