Issue: Jan 2012


Ford’s focus on electric vehicles



by Ed Richardson

Ford chief executive officer Alan Mulally sparked a minor media storm in 2011 when he opted to deliver the keynote address at Europe’s largest technology show, CeBit, in Hanover Germany rather than attend the opening of the Geneva Auto Show in person.

Earlier in the year, Ford chose the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to unveil the new Ford Focus Electric. The choice of shows is an indication of the evolution of the motor car – what Mulally calls the “electric future”. He has been talking about it for some time. In 2009, during a Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics conference, Mulally told attendees that electric vehicles would represent a major portion of the automaker’s line-up a decade from then. “In 10 years, 12 years, you are going to see a major portion of our portfolio move to electric vehicles,” Mulally said during a presentation. In response to a question from the audience, he added: “Ten years is going to come very quickly and I think we’ll have a significant improvement in the fuel efficiency in the internal combustion engine. You’ll see more hybrids, but you will really see a lot more electric vehicles.” 

With salesmen now taking orders for the Focus Electric, which will be on the showroom floors in 2012, Mulally’s decade is certainly coming “very quickly”. Today, Ford sells approximately 35,000 electrified vehicles a year, led by the Fusion Hybrid and Escape Hybrid – the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan in America and the most fuel-efficient SUV in the world, respectively. 

Traditional boundaries have been blurred as consumer electronics are integrated into the operating systems of vehicles. New suppliers bring with them new challenges, with both the OEMs and the consumer electronics companies having to learn how best to work with each other. Traditional component suppliers to the motor industry are also having to adapt and become more socially and environmentally conscious. 

These values are integral to the Aligned Business Framework (ABF) introduced by Ford to its strategic suppliers in 2005. There are now 102 companies in the ABF network, including 75 production and 27 nonproduction suppliers from around the world. Minority- and women-owned suppliers make up more than 10% of the ABF network, according to Ford. 

Ford is picking up speed in the electric vehicle race. It has announced that it is tripling the production capacity of its electrified vehicle lineup through 2013, further boosting volumes of its all-new C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, which begin production in 2012. Says Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president of Marketing, Sales and Service. “Whether people want a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or full battery electric vehicle, we have a family of vehicles for them to consider, providing a range of options to best meet their needs and support their driving habits and lifestyles.” 

Ford is electrifying platforms – versus a single vehicle – to offer customers the most choice. Ford plans to grow its electrified vehicle production capacity to more than 100,000 annually by 2013, thanks to growing consumer appetites for green vehicles and growing desires for stylish new Focus-sized vehicles. 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., the first plant in the world to produce gasoline-powered vehicles, full-electric vehicles, hybrid and plug-in hybrids under one roof.



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