Ford Defends Slow Rollout of Focus Electric

By · March 15, 2012

Focus Electric schematic

According to Ford, sales of the Focus Electric—though only 10 units in the first three months—are "on track."

Ford says that sales of its first electric car, the Ford Focus Electric, are "on track." Green Car Reports reported that there have only been 10 sales of the Focus Electric since going on sale in December, a number that Ford has not confirmed.

"We are on track with the Focus Electric launch," said Wesley Sherwood, a Ford spokesman, in an interview with AutoBlogGreen. "We began by selling a small number of vehicles to a few fleet customers. We are now ramping up retail production to begin selling vehicles to retail customers in New York, New Jersey and California in the first half of this year. We then will expand sales to 16 other markets later this year."

Ford is taking a decidedly broad-based approach to vehicle electrification, in which it views pure battery electric cars on one end of the spectrum that includes conventional hybrids and plug-in hybrids. “Electric transportation is still expensive," Nancy Gioia, Ford's director of vehicle electrification, said in October 2009. “We cannot overpromise and underdeliver and hype this. Because what could happen is you damage the reputation of the technology.”

Last year, Ford Motor’s chairman Bill Ford expressed doubts that a ground-up electric vehicles would appeal to enough consumers. He worried that the company would need to put big incentives on a dedicated EV in order to “shove them out the door, somehow." The consistent message from Bill Ford, CEO Alan Mulally, and Ms. Gioia has been that Ford will produce as many Ford Focus Electric units as customers demand.

So, maybe reports about very modest EV sales should not come as a surprise. Yet, in the past, Mulully has hinted that demand would be strong. “These are going to be the most affordable electric vehicles you can get,” and produced with “more scale than anybody else,” said Mulally. But apparently he was referring to all cars with an extra battery, including hybrid, plug-in hybrid and EV.

With the Focus Electric available only in its initial three launch markets through most of this year, and mostly to select fleet customers, the speed of Ford's ramp-up will be limited, compared to competitors. "We continue to expect sales of all-electric to be small even when we ramp up retail production," Sherwood told AutoBlog Green. "This is new technology, and it takes time to take hold." That's clear. The remaining question: How small is small?

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