Ford To Invest $4.5 Billion Into Electrified Vehicle Development

Yesterday Ford said it will invest $4.5 billion for electrified vehicle technologies in plans that include bringing 13 new electrified cars to market by 2020.

At a press conference held at its Dearborn, Mich. headquarters, Ford CEO Mark Fields reaffirmed the auto giant’s commitment to electrified vehicles as he discussed plans to electrify over 40 percent of its vehicle lineup within the next five years.

“Overall, electrification is going to play an important role in our future,” Fields said. “It’s not going away, at all, and we’re actually embracing it because, from a customer standpoint, we think that’s the thing they’re going to want.”

Ford’ will start with the 2017 Ford Focus Electric revised with a range bump to 100 miles, which will go on sale late next year. The revamped Focus Electric will come equipped with DC fast charging capability, allowing it to replenish 80 percent of its battery charge in 30 minutes.

Ford officials also teased a covered model of its next-generation Fusion plug-in hybrid, scheduled to be unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month.

The Fusion and its C-Max sibling are available in both regular hybrid and plug-in hybrid “Energi” variants. The 19-mile EV range Fusion Energi has been usurped for its second-highest electric range title by the pending 2016 Hyundai Sonata PHEV, so eyes will be on whether a range increase is included for Ford’s family plug-in sedan.

Year-to-date sales of Ford’s Focus, and two Energis has totaled over 17,000 units through November. This is relatively OK at this stage, but Ford’s present plug-in offerings compare to top sellers – themselves down year over year as well – like the Chevy Volt with 13,279 sold, and Nissan Leaf with 15,922.

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Under stringent fuel economy standards mandated by Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements, automakers are feeling the pressure to add fuel-efficient vehicles to their lineups to ensure they meet CAFE mandates. Under CAFE, manufacturers will be required to attain a fleet average fuel economy of 54.5 mpg by 2025, which amounts to about low 40s on window stickers.

That Ford needs to more than update existing mid-pack models appears clear.

As it announced a 100-miles update for the Focus EV for 2017, cross-town rival General Motors will show this January its 200-mile range Chevy Bolt EV also due in 2017.

Other players such as Nissan and Tesla Motors have also pledged to bring their own 200-mile EVs to market in the coming years.

During the same press event, Ford officials stated that the company plans to expand EV offerings in other countries such as Taiwan, Korea, and China.

Also revealed is Ford will shift its product development process toward a customer-centric point of view, rather than the vehicle itself.

Ford us investing globally in social science-based research to enable it to better pinpoint how consumers interact with vehicles while gaining insights into cognitive, social, cultural, technological and economic nuances that affect product design.

Ford aims to double its use ethnographic-research based projects during 2016.

“The challenge going forward isn’t who provides the most technology in a vehicle but who best organizes that technology in a way that most excites and delights people,” said Raj Nair, executive vice president, Product Development. “By observing consumers, we can better understand which features and strengths users truly use and value and create even better experiences for them going forward.”