Ford’s global head of sales and marketing is thinking a lot about fuel efficiency, gas prices and the economy these days. “Consumers know tomorrow they could wake up and gas could be $4 a gallon,” Farley told The Detroit News. “The uncertainty about fuel prices has changed the mindset of customers.”

Ford's Jim Farley

Jim Farley with the new 2011 Ford Explorer. Farley said he thinks consumers will pay more for a smaller engine, such as the EcoBoost four-cylinder in the new Explorer. The EcoBoost Explorer is priced above the V-6 version.

That’s why Ford plans to make its so-called “EcoBoost” engines the core powertrains across all of its model lineups. Ford uses Ecoboost as the sub-brand to describe downsized engines with turbocharging and direct inject to increase fuel economy by around 5 miles per gallon. Ford sees a “substantial” market for Ecoboost.

On the other hand, as we reported, Ford’s Jim Farley last week said that consumers are less likely to buy a hybrid. “You can’t sell a hybrid in today’s market,” he said.

Farley was talking about the depressed economy and sales targets for the new Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, which is the first hybrid vehicle offered at exactly the same price as the conventional version of the car. Despite this distinction, Farley expects Ford to sell fewer than 1,000 MKZ Hybrids per month. (Actually, that’s not a low number for a luxury hybrid.)

Farley believes that hybrids are getting consumers to think about break-even calculations for cars that offer more miles to the gallon. Yet, he contends that consumers will only buy if they see a payback in two years or less—a calculation that works for EcoBoost but not for hybrids (and presumably not for electric cars).

All along, Ecoboost has been the first line of defense for Ford—followed in order of importance by conventional hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric cars. These electrified vehicles could make up as much as 25 percent of Ford’s global fleet by 2020. Based on Farley’s comments, the much bigger piece of the efficiency pie will come from regular ol’ gas engine cars—optimized to give more mpg for the buck.