Ford's Focus Electric Marketing Chief Talks Pricing, Leasing, Reservation Process

By · November 04, 2011

2012 Ford Focus Electric pricing

Of this coming year's electric car debuts, Ford's 2012 Focus Electric has been one of the most anticipated among the growing group of electric car consumers. But after the announcement that the Focus Electric will start at a base price of $39,995, many of those who were anticipating it have now begun to grumble about missed opportunities and an apparent lack of commitment to the electric car market.

I sat down with Ford's Focus Electric Marketing Manager, Chad D'Arcy, for a chat about these issues and the decisions Ford has made in bringing an electric car to market.

Is the Pricing Competitive?

A 2012 Nissan LEAF carries a base price of around $36,000 (nearly $3,000 more than the 2011 model), but D'Arcy says using this price as a point of comparison to the Focus Electric is like comparing apples to oranges.

"The vast majority of LEAF purchasers are buying the higher grade SL model, which is much more closely equipped compared to the base Focus Electric," he said in an interview with PluginCars.com. "The LEAF SL comes within $2,000 of our base price and we think the Focus Electric is filled with content that warrants the extra $2,000."

The extra content that D'Arcy is referring to:

  • The 2012 Focus has a liquid cooled and heated battery which should help in delivering consistent driving ranges over a wider spectrum of temperatures. The LEAF has an air-cooled battery pack which results in a reduced range in temperature extremes.
  • The 2012 Focus has a standard 6.6 kW on-board charger compared to the 2012 LEAF's 3.3 kW. This means the Focus can add about 30 miles of driving range per hour of charging at a standard 240 volt charging station whereas the 2012 Leaf can only add about 15 miles of driving range in the same time.

In addition to these major upgrades compared to the LEAF, D'Arcy also thinks that the driver displays and in-car software (designed in conjunction with Microsoft) are far superior to the LEAF's and the car has more appealing styling. No one has yet had a chance to fully test the Focus Electric interface to determine if this is accurate, but on the styling front it is likely the Focus Electric will appeal to a broader range of consumers given how well the market has responded to the conventionally powered Focus.

While the LEAF and Volt (base price $39,995) have so far not competed directly due to the pricing difference and the differences in lifestyle considerations between all-electric and plug-in hybrid drivetrains, the Focus Electric base price is exactly the same as the 2012 Volt base price. What this means is not only will the Focus Electric be competing against the lower priced Nissan LEAF, it will also be competing against the Volt on price alone.

Consumers who are price averse will likely be driven to the LEAF and consumers who are range averse will likely be driven to the Volt. Interestingly, the Volt also has liquid cooled and heated batteries, further reducing the higher content argument. Can the Focus Electric win enough consumers based on better looks and faster home charging? It will likely be a hard sell, especially since it doesn't really matter how fast the Volt charges because it can always resort to using gas if need be.

Will There be a Lease Option?

Although there is no set program for leasing, Ford is leaving the terms of the Focus Electric lease pricing up to individual dealers who will use existing protocols for conventional leases. Ford will set residual values however. According to D'Arcy, more details on leasing will be made available soon.

How Soon Will it Actually Be Available?

Although Ford has made a point of saying the first Focus Electrics will be delivered before the end of 2011, according to D'Arcy those will all be commercial deliveries, with the first retail deliveries not occurring until early 2012. The rollout will be purposely slow, but D'Arcy declined to indicate any volume targets for 2012, instead saying that their manufacturing flexibility will allow them to meet whatever demand the market throws at them.

Anyone who orders now in the initial launch markets of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and the New York metro area (NY/NJ) will start seeing their cars delivered by early 2012. Beyond that, D'Arcy declined to predict how long it would be for the average orderer from the moment a reservation was placed to the moment the car was delivered.

According to Dan Pierce, Ford Communications, who also sat in on the conversation, Ford is waiting to get feedback on demand and based on that demand will be able to flex production to make sure customers don't have to wait too long.

How Will the Reservation Process Work?

Whereas Nissan had an online only reservation system for the LEAF which largely prevented price gouging and ensured all customers were treated fairly, Ford is leaving the mechanics of it up to their dealers. In the initial launch markets there are 50 dealers listed on the reservation website.

"Our dealers already know how to handle their customers in the most respectful manner," said D'Arcy. "The individual dealers, working with potential customers, will dictate what they want to do in terms of any down payments or upfront payments. We will have a process that will treat customers fairly in terms of the customer's position in line."

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