Is Ford Treading Cautiously with its Focus Electric?

While GM’s Chevrolet Volt was extensively promoted for several years prior to its December 2010 launch, Ford Motor Company appears to be taking a low-key approach with its Focus Electric.

Since its introduction last year, Ford has sold less than 30 examples and although it says it plans to ramp up production at its Wayne, Michigan facility as it rolls the car out into U.S. launch markets in California, New Jersey and New York, some are wondering whether there’s a bit of a reluctance on Ford’s part to commit to the vehicle.

Last week, Ford’s CEO Alan Mulally revealed that the true cost of the lithium-ion battery pack for the car is somewhere between $12,000-$15,000; and with the Focus Electric boasting a MSRP of $39,200 (a comparable gasoline Focus starts at $18,300) and a range of 76 miles, there’s no question that demand will be limited.

That being said, Ford doesn’t appear to be helping the car’s cause any further, despite the fact that a survey by the company itself revealed that 61 percent of Americans are interested in buying an EV or hybrid vehicle (even though many aren’t likely to make the jump until gasoline hits $5 per gallon).

Further reticence revealed itself when Jim Farley, Ford’s vice president of global marketing recently said, “the marketing of the Focus Electric is to people who buy electric vehicles, not you and me.”

Some have interpreted this to mean that the Focus electric is very much a “fringe” product in Ford’s eyes and with marketing clearly aimed at those who already “get” EVs. Farley’s statement appears very much an indicator that Ford is preaching to the converted EV enthusiast rather than aiming to win over new buyers – and a case of just throwing your hat into the ring simply to have a place in the running.

Green vehicle advocates also cite Ford’s decision not to produce a third-generation Escape Hybrid as another aspect at the reluctance to really embrace electric vehicle technology, even though the company is pitching its new mid-size Fusion Hybrid and Energi plug-in sedans as the most fuel efficient on the market.

It seems that instead, Ford is concentrating its engineering efforts on EcoBoost, with a plan to offer these powertrains in 90 percent of its global product portfolio by next year. By downsizing displacement and adding turbocharging and direct injection, Ford has been able to significantly increase fuel economy on its conventional passenger cars and light trucks without sacrificing performance and at a lower cost than utilizing hybrid and EV technology.

And with Ford aggressively pushing its new 1.0-liter EcoBoost Focus in Europe, which the company says achieves 47 miles per gallon (56.5 mpg Imperial) in 125 PS (metric horsepower) form; plus the company’s increasingly global product strategy, there’s a good indication cars like the Focus Electric could ultimately be left out in the cold.

Not helping matters is the fact that Ford still hasn’t announced any European sales of the Focus EV and by stating it can switch production at the Wayne, Michigan facility from conventional Focus models to EVs depending on demand, offers yet another indicator that internal enthusiasm for the vehicle is lukewarm at best.

And while some industry analysts, including consulting firm LMC Automotive, see EVs and plug-in hybrids account for just 1 percent of total U.S. vehicle sales by 2017, do you think Ford’s conservative approach with the Focus Electric is the right step, at least in the short-term?

USA Today


  • James Davis

    People are not waiting until gasoline gets to $5.00 a gallon before they start buying electric cars; that’s just crazy stupid thinking on the automakers side here in America. People are not buying electric cars because there are no electric cars on the market that people can afford to buy, or want to buy because they are so damn ugly. I don’t care if I had a million dollars in my pocket; I would not throw it away on a 45 thousand dollar piece of crap car like the Volt or the Focus. I don’t care if an ICE gets 70 MPG, that doesn’t stop it costing you $100.00 to fill it up. That is taking a big chunk out of peoples pay and they can’t afford that and get to a job that pays minimum wage. Has Detroit’s big three been sniffing too much tailpipe exhaust and they are now just brain dead? We no longer need Detroit’s big three shoving these crappy cars down our throats; there are a lot of other automakers building electric cars and we will buy them from them. I will buy a Nissan Leaf or the VW eBeetle before I waste a penny on any of Detroit’s big three crappy, ugly, trashy, over priced cars.

  • Oilyvarch

    70mpg… REALLY?

    Think of what you said for a while.

    $100 worth of gas at that level of efficiency would go a very long way.

  • Anonymous

    I’m proud of the Car companies for taking the next step…… I hope they are made to last and also affordable in the future for every one : )

  • Anonymous

    Dude you have to remember that there are Thousands of Americans making those cars and a lot of pride is put into them….. all in all Americans needs job and I as a american support companies that employee our hard working americans : )

  • MrEnergyCzar

    Every car company on the planet will have EV choices. Change is hard….

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  • Max Reid

    Its good that Ford is going full swing on the Ecoboost which is very affordable. Infact, the Focus Ecoboost V3 engine is sold in Europe and this will follow in China.

    I would say that V3 is as good as V4 Hybrid since lesser the cylinder means moving away from the Oil based transport.

    But on the other side, the battery cost is also going down.

    “Batteries cost $689 a kilowatt-hour in the first quarter of 2012, compared with $800 a year earlier”

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-16/battery-prices-for-electric-vehicles-fall-14-bnef-says.html

    In March, the sales of Toyota came very close to Ford based on hot sales of Prius. To counter that Ford announced a Fusion with optional start / stop option for another $300. I wish Ford keeps an active eye on Plugins/EVs.

  • LEAF Driver

    This isn’t a surprise. Detroit management makes choices and the workers pay the price when they build obsolete junk that consumers don’t want. Seriously. Who would want a smart phone? The batteries keep needing to be charged…..

  • James Davis

    Dude! GM is making the Spark in Korea; Ford is making the Focus EV in Mexico, and Chrysler, if they ever get an EV will be making it in Italy. So Dude, where’s the American jobs that you claim these American automakers are providing?

  • douglas prince

    Mulally has indicated a sincere interest in EV tech, wanting to trump GM for the American market. He’s even stated he’s inclining to taking an “al a carte” approach to EV manufacture – letting the consumer decide what bells and whistles to add on to a base platform vehicle and then pay the difference. The cost, weight and range of the battery is the deciding factor in this approach (especially the cost).

    However, he realizes, as other auto manufacturers do, that there is little “down the road” business on an EV vehicle. There will be no muffler to replace, no radiator to drain, no spark plugs to buy. So any money they need to make on a vehicle has to be made at the point of purchase. And there are a lot of people who rely on “down the road” service for their jobs.

    That ripple effect, and how it reflects on Ford and Ford products, is usually in the Top 5 on “things to consider” for an auto manufacturer.

  • MichaelStromm

    “Ford’s CEO Alan Mulally told reporters that selling fewer than 5,000 Focus Electrics by the end of 2012 should still be considered a success. Ford’s near-term goal to double sales of electric-drive vehicles—including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and EVs”. quinceanera dresses

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  • william johnson kaija

    its good going echo friendly but this aplies only to those with facilities that surport the use of electricity and all i can say some have to wait for years to adopt to the system given some markets have not reached the leval. given the consern of the gradual change in the environment and people’s attitude to all these environmental changes, we pray that it won’t also take the same gradual leval in penetration and thus a question on the rate of return for the producers. This futher leaves us questioning the marketing tactics or policies to be adopted for its roll out in view of the market structure, market segments income,social level and many other factors.

  • altonalvin

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