Ford accelerates electric-vehicle plans
Ford Motor Company made electric vehicles a centrepiece of a turnaround plan presented to the US Congress last week, saying that it will introduce an all-electric van for fleet use in 2010 and a sedan in 2011.
Ford's US-only Escape hybrid (Credit: Ford)
The Big Three US automakers (GM, Ford and Chrysler) returned to Washington DC last week to face congressional hearings to negotiate government loans — a US$15 billion package is now wending its way through the Congress — to forestall a collapse from lack of cash.
All three companies are seeing a continued dip in sales, but Ford is considered far better off financially than General Motors and Chrysler. Ford said last week that it could be cash-flow positive from operations by 2011, but still requested up to US$9 billion in loans, which CEO Alan Mulally said will act as a "critical backstop or safeguard against worsening conditions, as we drive transformational change in our company".
The business plan lists cost reductions — including plant closings and the sale of its much-criticised corporate aircraft — and investments in smaller, fuel-efficient cars and a line of electric vehicles.
Ford's US product plans calls for:
- A commitment to improve fuel efficiency across its fleet: 14 per cent for 2009, 26 per cent for 2012, and 36 per cent for 2015 — all compared with 2005 overall fleet mileage.
- At the Detroit Motor Show in January 2009, Ford will discuss its "vehicle electrification plan". That will include a family of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and all-electric, or "battery electric", vehicles scheduled to debut in 2012.
Its first product will be a van-type vehicle for commercial fleets in 2010 and a sedan in 2011 with a goal of making battery-powered cars cost-effective. The cost of batteries make plug-in hybrid or all-electric vehicles significantly more expensive than petrol engine cars.
Ford said that it will work with unnamed battery and electric-vehicle powertrain providers to bring its electric cars to market.
The company said that it intends to invest US$14 billion in efficiency and it will introduce in cars its EcoBoost technology — basically a low-powered turbocharger — which it unveiled at last year's Detroit Motor Show.
The company also said that it is exploring the sale of its Volvo car division — with rumours hinting that Chinese automaker, SAIC, is being sounded out.