Ford is on a roll, expecting to earn $1.7 billion in the third quarter, which is the best it’s done in 20 years. If you have to be reincarnated as an American automaker, come back as Ford, the only one of the Big Three to avoid bankruptcy. CEO Alan Mulally is a really steady hand on the tiller.
And Mulally is saying that the boat that’s floating Ford is also rising American car sales generally. The current Ford outlook says 12 million cars and trucks for the year, and “closer to” 13 million in 2011. That’s a rebound from the dismal days of 2008 and 2009.
But you want to know about the electric cars, right? Ford announced a new EV website at www.fordvehicles.com/technology/electric. It’s trying to get all educational about electric cars, so do take a look at the video on the site. If you're a regular reader of my blog here, you probably already know a lot about "how electric cars work."
Ford has been much quieter than other companies about its coming electric cars, especially in the last year. Its fleet includes the cool small Transit Connect van that it's gearing up to sell this year, the electric Focus in 2011 and the plug-in hybrid in 2012. A new fleet of standard hybrids, albeit with lithium-ion batteries, is also due in 2012.
I’ve driven all three electric vehicles, and generally liked them, but most of the time it was “around the block” kind of rides. I want a long-term test, as I was able to do with the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid last week. That was the first time I’ve actually spent a week with a car I could plug in, and it was a great experience -- dead easy. By the second day it became routine. I was able to drive most of the week on electric-only, despite the car’s limited 12.5-mile range on batteries. The kids weren't all that impressed, though.
The most interesting Ford entry to me right now is the Focus, because it has the possibility of being a mass-market car like the Nissan Leaf. It’s based on the next-gen Focus, which Ford has been marketing heavily (along with the even smaller Fiesta) as a “cool” youth car. That's why it was chosen as the electric vehicle on Jay Leno's celebrity test track last year. Drew Barrymore recorded better times than I did. The EV should be pretty cool, too. It has 100-mile range, and a six- to eight-hour charging time.
Here's a closer look at the car on video:
According to the Detroit News, however, the electric Focus will be seen much more in 2012 than in 2011. Sue Cischke, a vice president of environmental affairs, said, “We had always said 2011, which we’ll still do, but I think you’ll see more of the concentrated volume in 2012. Right now, we’re getting ready to provide a little bit slower entry.”
The volume in 2011 is likely to be pretty small, though for 2012 the company is promising a volume somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000, in rough parity with the Leaf and Chevy Volt. If there’s more demand, they’ll ramp up.
Dave Finnegan, Ford’s EV marketing manager, wouldn’t tell me a whole lot. “The volume ramp-up is what we see happening in 2012,” he said. “It’s not delayed or anything like that.” The next step is the debut of the production-ready car, and that’s “forthcoming in the not-too-distant future.”
Ford’s Dan Pierce did tell me that the Focus electric vehicle would initially be in certain markets only, like the Volt and Leaf. More on that soon.
“The electric Focus is a great opportunity for Ford,” Finnegan said. “It’s leveraging one of our great global vehicles. It’s important to be mindful of the role it plays as part of the Focus brand.”
OK, I'm mindful, but let's get this program on the road.