Ford Exec Chairman: Electric Vehicles Are A ‘Game Changer’

Ford Motor Co. views electric-vehicle technology as a core part of its business, the company's executive chairman said Friday. "The Model T put the whole world on wheels, but it also offered leading-edge technology," Bill Ford said at an event in Manhattan.

In the future, the use of batteries to partly or completely power cars is a core part of the company's business, Ford said. He called it a "game changer" that is ready to make a difference in improving vehicle efficiencies and reducing greenhouse gases.

The Detroit auto maker will launch its first pure electric car, the Focus Electric, in 19 North American cities by the end of the year and then in Europe in 2012.

By 2013, Ford will have five "electrified" vehicles on the market, including hybrids.
Company executives declined to provide estimates for how many cars they expect to sell or how much the electric car will cost.

Instead, they said the company's strategy is to offer a suite of fuel-efficient cars, whether they run on petroleum or battery-supplied electricity.

"We've committed to becoming a leader in fuel economy in every segment," Chairman Ford said. He added that the company takes the view that gasoline prices will march higher and there could be increases in demand for hybrids and electric cars during those periods.

The company's Michigan manufacturing plant is the first in the world to produce conventional vehicles along with hybrids and pure electric cars, the executive said.

This "electrification" of the production platform gives the company the flexibility to adjust to fluctuating appetites for different types of vehicles, he said.

The Focus Electric features the first mobile charger, which can be suspended from a hook. Drivers can take the charger with them, especially when they move. Existing chargers on the market have to be installed. Best Buy Co. (BBY) will sell the chargers and install them through the retailer's Geek Squad unit. The product will retail for $1,499 versus $2,200 for a competing charger offered by Nissan Motor Co. (NSANY, 7201.TO) for its Leaf electric car.

The biggest challenge standing in the way of widespread adoption of electric cars is the cost, said Nancy Gioia, Ford's global director of electrification. "The bigger the battery, the bigger the vehicle," which makes them more costly that conventional cars, she said.

[Editor's Note: And where is IndyCar with their brand spanking new car for 2012 or NASCAR with their Car of Tomorrow? The answer nowhere. When it comes to having the foresight to include electric motors running in conjunction with their internal combustion engines because that is the way the entire automotive industry is moving, they are missing the boat as it pulls away from the dock.]

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