Ford Neglects Focus Electric, But It's Still California-Compliant

By · June 14, 2013

Ford Focus Electric

Ford's global director of electrification, Nancy Gioia, charges the Ford Focus Electric's during the vehicle's reveal in New York City, Friday, Jan. 7, 2011. (Ford photo)

The Focus Electric is “an important part of our overall strategy,” I was told by John Viera, Ford’s global director for sustainability and vehicle environmental matters. But it doesn’t always look like that—the car seems like a red-headed stepchild when compared to the company’s C-MAX and Fusion, both of which come in popular plug-in hybrid versions.

The Focus hasn’t been aggressively marketed, and partly as a result it hasn’t sold well—through May this year, only 723 found new homes. As you may have heard, Ford doesn’t intend to make any changes to the Focus for 2014. The undeniably nice car, at $39,200 (before rebate) or $284 a month for a three-year lease, is also priced above the current market—where $199 leases are increasingly common.

Follow the Money

To its credit, Ford is fairly upfront about hybrids being where the money is. “Different customers have different needs,” Viera said, “and the subset who wants battery cars is smaller than the subset who wants plug-in hybrids.”

Nancy Gioia, Ford's director of global electrification (pictured above), is even more candid about the battery car's prospects. “The batteries are still very expensive, and the payback period tough,” she said. Still, battery cars "are a hoot to drive. That is not the issue. The economic viability of it is. We still see battery electric as niche. We think that by focusing on the plug-ins and that awareness, we actually end up benefiting both the hybrids and the plug-ins.”

Ford C-MAX Energi

The C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid is selling well enough to satisfy California regulators. (Jim Motavalli photo)

Yes, those economics are certainly true at Ford. In the first quarter, Ford sold 21,080 hybrids (including plug-in versions), its best quarter to date—up 324 percent. Through April, it moved 11,708 C-MAX Hybrids and 13,891 Fusion Hybrids.

Copacetic With California?

Ford is right to be proud of its hybrid sales, though it’s probably not making Toyota (which late last year had more than 60 percent of the electrified vehicle market) nervous just yet. A more pressing problem is whether Ford will be in compliance with California’s zero emission car rules, which are the major reason some automakers made battery EVs in the first place. “We get significant California credits for cars like the Focus, and a smaller amount from plug-in hybrids,” Viera said. “Obviously, we have to sell an increasing number of zero emission cars to meet the rules, and we’re trying to produce vehicles to meet those requirements. It will become more challenging as the quotas increase.”

For now, Ford’s likely to be OK with the California Air Resources Board. Jay Friedland, legislative director of California-based Plug In America, said that Ford’s “magic number” of battery electrics (or fuel-cell cars; they’re zero emission, too) is around 1,600 between this year and the middle of 2015.

Plug-In Hybrids Count, Too

The company can get half its credits from plug-in hybrids, and carries over some banked credits from 2012, he said. Beyond that, Ford has the option of aping Honda and buying compliance credits from Tesla—which raked in $63 million from just that source in the first quarter of 2013. But even with a fairly neglected Focus campaign, Ford will meet its near-term numbers.

CARB can be a bit of a Chinese puzzle, but Simon Mui, clean vehicles and fuels scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, concurs with Friedland that Ford isn’t in a bad position. “It’s complicated because of all the credits you get for different technologies,” Mui told me, “but at the end of the day I agree that Ford is doing pretty darn well. It’s on the glide path with the 700 battery EVs it has sold so far.” Ford also comfortably meets its plug-in hybrid quotas.

What's Ahead?

Things get much tougher around 2018, Mui said, because Ford and other automakers have to meet doubled quotas, Mui said. “That’s when it really ramps up,” he said. By then, Ford should have really moved beyond compliance cars and committed wholeheartedly to a battery platform.

For its part, CARB doesn't want to get down to cases about the performance of car companies. "We can't comment on Ford's compliance because it is based on sales, and we don't know future model year sales," said the agency's spokesman, Stanley Young, in an email.

**

Moving beyond the Focus and into "well to wheels" type sustainability, Ford seems to be doing well. In its new 2012/13 Sustainability Report, the automaker said it had cut carbon emissions 37 percent per vehicle at its global facilities between 2000 and 2012. That translates to 4.65 million metric tons in savings. Ford hopes to go another 30 percent between 2010 and 2025.

Waste-to-landfill was cut 19 percent just between 2011 and 2012. In that same time period, global water use declined by 1.95 million cubic meters, saving $3 million for Ford. The company also moved to second worldwide in the Interbrands Global Brands report.

Comments

· · 4 years ago

When will ford make a plug in Escape?

· · 4 years ago

I think Ford is definitely making Toyota nervous in the hybrid market. I don't think anyone expected them to do so well with the C-Max and Fusion hybrids and Energi. They have produced real competition, both for the Prius and for the Volt.

As for the BEV market, it's still developing. When EVs have a 200-300 mile range and cost $25-30K, sales will take off. When sales do take off, Ford will need a purpose-built EV and not a converted steel ICE vehicle with a battery in the trunk. Otherwise, they will never be able to compete with the BMW i3 and the Gen III Tesla.

· · 4 years ago

"Mui said. 'That’s when it really ramps up,' he said. By then, Ford should have really moved beyond compliance cars and committed wholeheartedly to a battery platform."

We now know when this, like all CARB "pie in the sky" programs tank. This time they are trying to cover it up with credits, and free money traders can skim off and put in their pockets.

· · 4 years ago

So I'm one of the lucky 723 new owners of the Focus electric. I also own a Model S and have to say that the ford is a pretty good little car and the lease payments are about 1/5th to 1/6th as much as the Tesla. It's fun to drive, packed with options, super quiet and comfortable. It certainly beats the Leaf by a healthy margin and would likely outsell it if Ford put any effort at all into advertising it. The much touted loss of space due to the battery pack taking up a portion of the hatchback space is really overblown. I've transported many carts worth of groceries without having to use the back seat at all. Where Ford fails is with customer service. I've tried many times to reach someone at Ford that is capable of answering questions and have never had so much as a peep from the company. I'm convinced that Ford is proving Elon correct when he says that traditional car companies have a vested interest in the failure of the EV, or at least it's marginalization.

· · 4 years ago

When someone with a Tesla S has such good things to say about the Ford Focus EV, you have got to listen. Using a ICE Focus may have some draw backs, but it also has pluses like having a proven chassis. He failed to mention the advanced cooling system for the battery. My other car is a Prius and I see the Ford Focus EV as a better ride, much more fun to drive and the trunk space is not that much different unless you want to cart a dog kennel. I love my Prius, but I love my Ford Focus EV even more. The thing not mentioned is that the plug-in Hybrids still have to be serviced. My Prius was well serviced at about $1000.00 a year.

· · 4 years ago

First off, next to the Fiat 500e, this is the best looking BEV in this class, and has a lot going for it. I understand wanting to be upset and complain, however, I respect Ford as an overall company as they did not need a bailout, so, financially, they are handling things as best as they can. Not making changes in 2014 is not a big deal, most cars go through many thousands of vehicles in a year, and they can afford to change them up every 2-3 years, but, BEV is still up-and-coming, not producing as many cars. Give it time. Things will change quickly over the next 5 years as Tesla continues to succeed, more charges are in place, and Solar (& wind power) begin take over and make charging even more affordable. Plus, things could change over the next 6 months or so with more BEVs coming out (Spark EV), they may end up dropping the price or making a better lease deal for 2014.

· · 4 years ago

Keep in mind, others, (such as Honda w/Fit EV) lose money on BEVs. ...plus, Ford has begun production of the focus ev in europe, so, they are going forward, just at a slower pace.

· · 4 years ago

Wow, where to begin...
The author is naïve to say that Toyota isn't worried. I have one of the first 2004 Priuses in California. It's still runs fine. I've driven the Fusion Hybrid, C-Max Hybrid AND their Energi counterparts. Toyota should be worried, if only because it looks far into the future and their 60% market share has nowhere to go but down. Naïve would be an understatement.

Last November I leased a Focus Electric for $200/month. It is by far the best car I've ever own/leased. It is fun, fast and doesn't have the geeky style of the Leaf. It's better equipped and better looking too. The fact that the 2014 hasn't changed from the 2013 model is a statement that the competition (the Leaf and others) don't offer the features that come standard with the Focus. BTW, how many gas engine vehicles change the features/style EVERY year. Get real. This car is fine. The only thing holding back all the manufacturers are batteries.

There are plenty of other manufacturers that are behind Ford. Honda produces mediocre hybrids and the electric Fit. The Electric Fit barely makes the charts for sales. If you have seen the Toyota RAV4 Electric you know it's $50,000 and is a striped down version of the RAV4. It has little or NO creature comforts for $50K.

As an early adopter of the Prius I am telling you that Ford is doing a fine job of introducing elegant stylish hybrids, plugin hybrids AND the kick ass Focus Electric. The only electric car that out classes the Focus Electric is the Tesla at 2x or 3x the price. You can't lease anything else with these features for $200/month. I'm saving $200/month in gas.

Give Ford credit for rapidly moving the bar higher for all competitors.

· · 4 years ago

I love mine. Very enjoyable to drive. We just took it camping for the weekend and all of our gear fit no problem. The Focus Electric exemplifies EV driving pleasure, for a quite reasonable price of admission.

· · 4 years ago

I agree with FocusElectricDriver. I don't know of any car company that does major updates one year after a new model is released, unless it is a total flop, like the 2011 Honda Civic which was redesigned only 18 months after introduction.

· · 4 years ago

Once again we are comparing a Ford Focus Electric at $40k to a Leaf at $30k and touting how much better the Focus Electric is. Ah yea at $10k more.
Also I hear about all the great features on the Focus that the Leaf does not have, WHAT!

· · 4 years ago

The Focus is a much more attractive car than the Leaf. No one could argue otherwise. I own a Prius so I know what means to have a car that stands out and says "I'm energy efficient". Toyota is battling this question in the next redesign of the Prius... keep it a geek mobile or make it look more mainstream. The Focus is an attractive mainstream car design. Add a leather interior, liquid cooled battery, auto windshield wipers and electronic dimming rear view mirror (2012), Full wireless connectivity with my cellphone including reading my text messages to me, heated seats, excellent voice commands with Sync/My Touch (works great for me) and a 6.6kw onboard standard charger for <4 hour charges and you have a car that owners love.

I leased mine knowing that in 3 years there will be more and better choices. I haven't heard much dissent from Focus Electric owners. If Ford has made a decision to place it's eggs in the Hybrid/Plugin Hybrid basket they do it because that's where the mainstream consumer is right now. Those of us that are on the cutting edge (also known as the bleeding edge) should understand that we are the vanguard shinning a light pointing the way to the future. The rest will follow in their time.

Until I return my leased Focus Electric I will enjoy the speed, the interior luxury, and the joy of knowing that I'm not exporting money in exchange for oil.

The Leaf is a fine car. Their owners love theirs as much as I love my Focus Electric. 10 years down the road when electric cars have a 300 mile charge, quick induction charging, and probably google like self drive modes we, the electric car vanguard and evangelists, will look back at the Focus and Leaf and remember them fondly.

· · 4 years ago

@josephbell,

You wrote:

"The thing not mentioned is that the plug-in Hybrids still have to be serviced. My Prius was well serviced at about $1000.00 a year."

I have few questions about that statement.

1. What did you do with $1,000 per year on that Prius service? Most Prius owners would say that their Prius are virtually service free for over 100k miles and only thing they ever do is to change oil. I can't imagine it needs more than $500 worthy of oil change. Brakes are common between BEV and hybrids, so they both need very little service.

2. Also, how did you induce that hybrid cost will automatically mean PHEV will cost similar or more? If a PHEV is 80% electric, then its "hybrid" portion of the powertrain will wear at the 1/5 of the rate of a conventional hybrid, why would it need more service?

A Volt that is 70% electric with 12,000 miles/yr will only need 1 oil change per year. By the time it reaches 100,000 miles, its engine is barely 30k miles old. Why would it cost significantly more than a BEV?

BEV still needs a lot of service on the non-powertrain related parts.

Powertrain is the ONLY part that BEV saves you on the maintainence comparing to a hybrid and PHEV (depending on the % of the eletric miles).

· · 4 years ago

I agree that Focus EV is a better car than the Leaf. In fact, even the Fit EV is a better car than the Leaf. But neither is as affordable as the Leaf.

SparkEV might comes close but it is only a 4 seater and it does BLOW the LEAF AWAY in performance.

Right now, with all the new offering, Leaf is no longer the "king" of BEV. It used only have to beat out i-Miev (no brainer) and Coda (no brainer). But it now has plenty of choices in the market. It is competing by "dropping prices". That is a good thing for all of us. But any car that competes by dropping prices won't last in the long term.

In fact, Leaf doesn't "dominate" in any category of the BEV market.

Performance? No.
Range? No.
Efficiency? No.
Price? No.
Look? No.
Capacity? No.

Leasing price? Yes.

· · 4 years ago

MMF - there is another thing that Leaf dominates at - availability. None of these other cars are truly available nationwide. Not even the Focus EV, in the sense that I cannot walk into my local Ford dealer and "kick the tires", let alone take one for a spin. No, I have to travel 100 miles to Rochester, NY to find the single dealer there that has a demo Focus. And if I want to buy one, Ford is happy to make me one. But it will take time. Whereas I could drive home in a new Leaf before I could even get behind the wheel of a Focus for a test drive. This is why Leaf dominates the BEV market.

I personally want all BEVs to be available nationwide. I don't like have the choice of "any BEV you want, as long as its a Leaf." The trouble is, nobody is serious about making and selling BEVs short of Nissan and Tesla. And for that, they dominate the market.

· · 4 years ago

@Brian,

You are absolutely correct. I agree that there should be more choices in other states. But states such as CA, OR and WA are accounting for more than 50% of the plugin market and more BEVs are sold in the California alone than the next best selling state combines. So, the automaker is naturally going to shift more focus into those states.

But I am sure Ford and Honda can sell plenty more BEVs if they offer the same deal in other states...

· · 4 years ago

sdtvmark · 3 days ago
When will ford make a plug in Escape?

That is my question, love the C-Max Energi but we are holding off and waiting for a PHEV Escape to be launched. I was thinking the dropped it from the lineup because they did nto want it to compete with the ecoboost. Have been watching the Outlander but we want to stay with Ford.

· · 4 years ago

@J P/sdtvmark: I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a plug-in Escape. The C-Max was intended to replace the Escape Hybrid, Ford figuring that SUVs were less appealing to green car buyers than a car sold only (in this market) as a hybrid and so more recognizably "green." The Escape is a bit bigger, but the C-Max is no subcompact, and should address the needs of most potential Escape PHEV buyers - so I'm guessing Ford feels a PHEV Escape would be redundant. The C-MaxE does have somewhat constrained cargo space (though much better than Volt or Focus Electric), but given's Ford consistent record of ingeniously locating batteries in the trunk, I expect an Escape PHEV would be similarly space-impaired.

The Outlander PHEV, should it actually show up in U.S. next year (Mitsu still can't meet demand in Japan, even after an embarrassing battery recall), might be closer to what CUV buyers are looking for. Volt and C-Max product managers should be hoping that Mitsubishi isn't aggressive on price, else they may be in some trouble.

· · 1 year ago

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· · 21 weeks ago

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· · 9 weeks ago

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