Ford announced yesterday it would raise its annual U.S. production capacity for “electrified” vehicles from 35,000 to over 100,000 by 2013.
While the Focus EV is due later this year, the spotlight was also on four other hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Central among these will be Ford’s five-passenger C-Max Hybrid (pictured) and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid which for the first time were announced that they would be offered in North America. A seven-passenger internal-combustion engine version slated for the U.S. however will not be offered.
The car has proven a hot seller overseas, and in a separate statement, Ford said it will increase C-Max production in Valencia, Spain to continue to fill strong European demand. Since its late 2010 launch, Ford said it has sold 70,000 units in Europe, and taken orders for 30,000 more.
The company said it is now convinced the U.S. market is ready for American-made versions which will complement a broadened selection of electrified vehicles.
“This is a big deal for us because we are seeing a huge growing appetite for fuel efficient green vehicles,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president of marketing, sales and service. “The number of people indicating fuel economy is the main reason continues to rise.”
The C-Max line is expected to compete with the Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF.
In all, Ford has committed $135 million to build its five electrified vehicles which include also a version of its Transit Connect van and another model not yet announced (possibly a hybridized 2013 Ford Escape crossover).
The initiative is said to be responsible for 220 new green technology jobs at three Michigan plants. These will include 170 positions at the Rawsonville and Van Dyke Transmission plants, and more than 50 new “electrified-vehicle engineers” which have come on board in Dearborn during the past year.
Ford however said it canceled plans for a North American seven-passenger C-Max “multi-activity vehicle” with a four-cylinder gasoline engine, meaning the C-Max will be one type or another of five-passenger hybrid only.
Estimated mileage for the new vehicles was not announced, but the C-Max Hybrid’s efficiency will reportedly exceed that of the Ford Fusion which is rated at 41 mpg.
Both the C-Max Hybrid and C-Max plug-in hybrid will utilize lithium-ion batteries. The latter will use a larger battery pack, but Ford did not specify capacity for either.
Ford did say the C-Max Hybrid will be able to travel at a higher all-electric speed than the Ford Fusion Hybrid’s 47 mph, although it did not say how much higher.
Another critical detail lacking in Ford’s press announcement was pricing, but it did say it will reduce projected MSRP thanks to an estimated 30-percent cut in production costs next year.
Part of the cost savings is because Ford has designed the hybrids’ components in-house, and will assemble their systems itself.
In contrast, the transmission in the 2011 Ford Fusion, 2011 Escape and 2011 Lincoln MKZ are supplied by Aisin Seiki Co., of Japan.
Ford likewise developed its own battery systems that will be manufactured in Rawsonville in the suburbs of Detroit for the C-Max Hybrid, and plug-in version. Previously Ford’s hybrid batteries were made in Mexico.
“Both the C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi models will be built alongside the all-new 2012 Ford Focus and Focus Electric at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich.,” Ford said, “the first plant in the world to produce gasoline-powered vehicles, full-electric vehicles, hybrid and plug-in hybrids under one roof.”