Electric Ford Focus in 2011: What it Means

Focuselectric

As we reported yesterday, we now know that Ford has made official its plans to build an electric Ford Focus in 2011. Perhaps most notable is that Ford could be the first automaker in the U.S. to mass-market a pure battery-electric passenger car — and a "real" one, meaning a compact car rather than the type of small commuter cars Toyota has planned for 2012 and Mitsubishi is investigating for compliance with U.S. regulations. Nor is it a $100,000 limited-run sports car like the one being sold by Tesla.

Nissan has promised a plug-in electric, but its current plans call for fleet use starting in 2010 and public sale in 2012. Chrysler's ENVI group has shown a prototype plug-in electric along with some plug-in hybrids equipped with onboard generators, but it's hard to imagine Chrysler being in position to beat anyone to market with the technology should it emerge successfully from Chapter 11. Due to battery costs alone, purely electric cars are unlikely to be profitable in their first generation -- let alone profitable enough to help an automaker get back on its feet. Though Chevrolet's Volt is scheduled for sale late in 2010, it's a range-extended plug-in electric car — technically a hybrid — that will retail as high as $40,000.

Nissan and Ford promise to, uh, focus on affordability. Don't count Honda out, though. The hybrid pioneer has a history of springing technology on us without talking about it ahead of time. GM had been promising the return of cylinder deactivation for years when Chrysler's Hemi V-8 and Honda's V-6 beat them to it.

The announcement sends another positive, multi-tiered message from Ford: Sure to please the UAW and Americans in general, Ford is keeping Focus production in the country, and doing so at a truck plant that might otherwise represent lost jobs. If the market returns to small cars, there's an opportunity for more significant export business — especially for the 2010 Focus, which is a global car rather than the watered-down version we've had stateside since its debut. The half-billion-dollar investment will result in flexible manufacturing that's even more modern than the manufacturing of the current Focus at the nearby Wayne Assembly Plant. That should help Ford match production to market demand, which is key to profitability. Unfortunately, Ford announced that reopening the assembly plant will take workers straight from Wayne to man the lines producing the new Focus.

Even if the electric Focus isn’t a money-maker initially, it’ll grab a lot of the attention currently directed at (and arguably wasted on) Tesla, whose sole product to date is too expensive and inflexible for consideration from buyers driven by environmental considerations. Being early to the party has been beneficial to Honda and Toyota, and if Ford hits the market first with an affordable, versatile battery-electric, it will enjoy returns on its investment beyond whatever profit each car can bring in.

Comments 

Max Reid

Good effor Frod

Chinese company BYD has already launched Plugin hybrid and intends to sell EV by the end of this year. Unless American companies ramp up, we will end up buying Chinese cars.

In the next 3 years, cost of batteries may drop as EV sales are already increasing and Lithium technology is growing rapidly. Meanwhile Capacitors have started appearing in buses for Energy Capture and Storage.

Max,
No Chinese company has established a U.S. dealer network nor passed US crash tests. It is unlikely without those two things a 2009 timeframe is possible.

Eric

Exactly, Dave. It will be at least 3 years before Chinese corporations can actually get a vehicle to pass U.S. safety requirements. Ford will already be well into it's second year of selling the BEV Focus...and reaping the benefits of being in the lead on "earth friendly" technology.

I've been listening to Chinese selling cars in the U.S. talk for years with no concrete signs its going ot happen. With U.S. sales projected at 10 million-12 million a year there's too much capacity and choice as is in the U.S.

If people are shying away from cheap GM products they're not going to try out the Chinese unless they're sub, sub $10K.

But that's my 2 cents. You never know.

H

This is what it means to me:

Too many compromises with owning an all-electric car. I'll stick with a conventional Focus until the e-Focii are cheap enough on the used car market to warrant buying one as a second vehicle.

The market's already oversaturated; there's no room for a Chinese producer, and if they were to establish a dealer network, how many people would actually be interested in a company with virtually zero consumer recognition?

In something as expensive (and potentially fatal) as a car, Americans aren't going to open up their wallets to a Chinese producer. It's not going to happen within the next decade, if at all.

Paola

A new Saturn importing cars from China would definitely work.

C

What it means is that they will be buying a lot of electric motors from either China or Japan because we in the U.S. simply don't have a motor producing company.

H

C,
That statement is false. The US has many motor producing companies.

C

H,
Name one that is an U.S. based please.
Keep in mind that we are talking about motor, not engines. People tend to mix them up for whatever reason.

H

GE, Baldor, Leeson, Emerson (U.S. Motor), Bodine

Justin S

I am not sure how affordable Ford can make this EV by 2011. If it is priced higher than the Honda Insight or Toyota Prius, it will NEVER sell. Nobody in this country is going to pay that kind of money for a Focus I don't care what its powered by. It really doesn't make sense to buy a car whose expense alone is going to out weigh the savings in gas!!!

Lewis

Not too sure that any cars from China can pass federal safety standards to date.

Traveler

Justin S - I disagree. I own a focus 2005 and I enjoy the way it handles. After looking at the Prius and the Insite - especialy the cheap interiors of both, I would gladly pay for a focus that is a little more. A EV- Focus around 30 K seems reasonable to me. The focus interior has in my opinion a slightly better quality.

Eriksson

Wow i like how you can just assume that because its from a Detriot brand that it must have inferior reliablity and quality, sheesh wake up and get the hell out from under your rock. Your precious toyota has been the one with quality and reliablity quite lacking latley. An electric focus would be nice, and people would NOT choose the pathetic, slow, not even very good mileage Insight over a focus just because of a few thousand dollars, if people are gonna pay for a hybrid, they will buy what gets best mileage and what apeals, Hondas prius copy cat that performs awful isnt going to....And a Full electric car shouldnt even be compared to tardsight and Turdis. They use GAS and this wont, now why would people just choose a prius just cause the focus is a few k more when they dont even compare? Its like all these poeople compareing the prius and volt, when they do totally different things.

It is really posted well and it is appreciative. Thanks

bco

Our American view of automobile quality is skewed by our market's traditional focus (no pun intended) on bigger-is-better. In the old days, the best Ford was the biggest one, followed by the cheaper Fairlanes, and Falcons. Since the Focus is more or less the descendent of the Falcon-Escort line, we view it as a cheap economy car.

In Europe, the Focus is regarded as a serious quality car. Its mini-RV version, the C-MAX, established and set the standard for a whole new class of cars. You could say that, in Europe, the Focus C-MAX was a kind of iPhone of cars.

So maybe we can take another look at the Focus, now that we are being forced to come to our senses, about gas prices, carbon pollution, and manufacturing competitive products. We seem to appreciate European tastes and sensibilities in music, coffee, food, and supermodels, so maybe they are also right about this car.

Jack

Based on buying Chinese made consumer goods, any one even thinking of buying a Chinese made auto is insane in my eyes. This year alone we have bought and returned a Chinese made 10,000 btu air conditioner, a small kitchen TV, a pistol drill and numerous kitchen gadgets and untensils. All failed within two weeks. Perhaps the Japenese started this way ( actually we know they did not ). Korea did produce horrible autos originally, but nothing the Chinese produce at my level stands up to use. Chinese hybrids or BEV's i dont think so!

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