• Ford Electrification

Interview: Ford Electrifies—Sedans Need Not Apply

40 New Electrified Ford Models Coming

In mid-April 2018, Ford surprised the automotive world with this statement.

“By 2020, almost 90 percent of our Ford portfolio in North America will be trucks, utilities and commercial vehicles–including their electrified versions. Given declining consumer demand and product profitability, we will not invest in next generations of traditional Ford sedans for North America.

Over the next few years, our Ford car portfolio in North America will transition to two vehicles – our best-selling Mustang as well as the all-new Focus Active crossover coming out next year. To respond to the needs of our customers and to grow our business, we are significantly expanding our North America utility portfolio while also exploring new “white space” vehicle silhouettes that combine the best attributes of cars and utilities–such as higher ride height, space and versatility.”

Ford Electrification

The Ford Transit PHEV currently being tested may be the wave of the future

With this as the backdrop, Clean Fleet Report spoke with Darren Palmer, Ford’s global program director lead, for battery electric vehicles. The timing of our interview was coincidental to Ford’s announcement and could not have come a better time for Clean Fleet Report’s readers. We were pleased to be speaking with one of their key executives about the future of Ford’s electrified vehicles.

Clean Fleet Report: What is the Ford battery electric vehicle (BEV) strategy going forward?

Ford: We have plans to release several derivatives over the next few years including 16 battery electric vehicles and 24 battery electric hybrids, for a total of 40 new models. We asked ourselves what will Ford’s strengths be that our customers would love? As we have been planning our BEV portfolio, we are on the cusp of battery technology where we can offer customers real value in that space, and something that is over-and-above what is available today. Customers will have features and attributes that they want to buy. They will no longer be strictly buying them for the economy or the green reasons, but they will be buying them for performance also, and because they are highly desirable. They will be attainable and available to many more people. Ford will focus on iconic products that will be highly aspirational. We are bringing emotion to this segment that we know our customers would like.

CFR: What about Lincoln future BEV plans?

Ford: We are looking for battery electric vehicles for Lincoln, worldwide.

CFR: The Fusion Energi sedan is selling quite well. Is this model going away?

Ford: Our customers are showing us they find other body styles more interesting, so we are not investing in the next generation of those [sedans] types of body styles. This is simply not what our customers are asking for. Editor’s Note: A Ford communications representative clarified that Fusion production will end in the next few years.

CFR: Is the Ford Focus Electric expected to migrate to the new Focus platform?

2018 Focus Electric

Ford Focus Electric will continue in some form

Ford: We are in the process of planning and implementing a complete global strategy. So far, we have shared there will be a Mustang-inspired SUV (Note: its working title is Mach 1) from this new generation, ground-up battery electric platform. Our customer research shows there is good demand for such a vehicle.

Ford F-150 diesel

Diesel has a future at Ford

 

CFR: How important is the China market where EVs appear to be the key to moving forward? Will Ford have a China-only EV?

Ford: China is, of course, one of the most important global markets for battery electric vehicles. The Chinese government are very supportive of battery electric vehicles, including the consumers purchase and use of those vehicles. As we were developing our new BEV strategy, our team spent the first week of the process in China because we wanted to see first-hand what is exactly happening in that market. As we saw in Norway and The Netherlands, they wanted to be a leader, so they really supported that. This gave us an indication of what it could look like elsewhere in the world when the pick-up of such vehicles becomes commonplace. If Ford can develop one global platform, we can get scale and efficiently offer more to everyone around the world.

We will consider if a vehicle is a local vehicle or a global vehicle, depending on the market needs, so the customer is served appropriately. In many ways the battery electric vehicle is easier to do that with than the ICE (internal compression engine) vehicles were, due to each country’s regulations. So yes, China is very important to us.

CFR: How does the new 3.0L F-150 diesel fit into the mix?

Ford: The F-150 diesel is very competent at towing, but also gives high fuel economy. It is there to give a certain list of attributes for a certain type of customer.

CFR: It will be critical to meet even the 2021 CAFE standards (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) and even more-so the 2025 standard. What are Ford’s goals in this area?

Ford: Our company continues to support clean standards and we have not asked for any type of rollback. We will continue to work on one standard that will provide more options to our customers. We will continue to work with the different agencies, including California, towards having one national standard.

CFR: In closing what should Clean Fleet Report readers be left with about the future of Ford products?

Ford Electrification

Mustangs will be Ford’s car brand around the world

Ford: The pull for electrified vehicles comes from the top of the company. Bill Ford (chairman) and Jim Hackett (president and CEO) are huge supporters. In fact, they formed Team Edison in October 2017 to help crystalize our company’s thinking on battery electric vehicles. They have been unwavering in their support.

Ford considers [vehicle electrification] as something that can enhance our customer’s life. Performance is something the customer needs, so it will not be hybrid for the sake of being a hybrid. The F-150 will have more performance in areas they can use, because a truck is a tool.

An example is in California where consumers may have bought an electric vehicle to gain access to the (carpool) lane, or maybe for other reasons, but once they got in one, they are never going to get out. We are seeing customer interest increasing for this type of product. First in California, but as these products become more available and affordable, we think the take-up will move across the country. This is what we see coming. It is not today, but is the reason Ford is stepping in at what we believe is the right time to offer our customers something that is compelling.

We know it isn’t always obvious to consumers until you drive the vehicles, and we have found that not many people have yet. So, it is our job to make that transition smooth as possible, to make them feel comfortable and safe making that move. Making it as seamless as possible.

If we give them the right products they will realize the benefits of this technology in their life.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy: Ford’s EV/Efficiency Moves

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Flash Drive: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi

Interview: Ford’s Electrified Future

Road Test: 2016 Ford Focus Electric

News: Ford F-150 Hybrid Confirmed By CEO

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About Author: John Faulkner

John Faulkner is an automotive marketing professional with more than 30 years experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent's 1950 Studebaker. He has a keen appreciation of Art Deco design, no bias for domestic versus foreign makes and loves competition - whether that be F1, IndyCar, Sports Cars, NASCAR or participating in Track Days at places such as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Thunderhill or Willow Springs. John lives in Dana Point, CA, and enjoys a top-down drive on PCH on an early Sunday morning.

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