Ford Motor Co. wants customers to know that it is taking their complaints about its unimpressive fuel economy seriously and that major efforts are being taken for its program on developing fuel-efficiency technology. In fact, it is all that the red-brick 285,000 square-foot advanced engineering center in Dearborn, Mich., is doing.
This is one of Ford’s biggest research laboratories and it’s presently tasked to develop hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. Since Ford’s revival in late 2006, it had focused on fuel efficiency as a centerpiece. In 2012, the automaker is set to offer nine vehicles that could achieve over 40 miles per gallon. Included in this list are the first all-electric passenger car, the 2012 Focus Electric, and the 2013 Fusion Energi, a plug-in hybrid sedan.
Raj Nair, who will serve as the head of Ford global product development on April 1, said that a decade ago, its surveys found that consumers rejected the brand because of its poor fuel economy. Nair, who is currently the global head of engineering, said that more people are coming to Ford due to its “superior” fuel economy compared to most of its rivals. He said that this will be at the center of Ford’s strategy going forward. For the next decade, the fuel-efficiency and emissions standards will become stricter, according to U.S. regulators and automakers.
And with rising fuel prices, automakers would have to experiment with hybrid and electric vehicle technology. Ford, which falls behind General Motors, is centralizing the development of these vehicles amid growing doubts on the affordability and effectiveness of electric cars. Engineering modifications to the traditional internal combustion engine have helped automakers get more miles per gallon. The Focus electric car offers the equivalent of 105 miles per gallon. Meanwhile, Ford forecasts that the Energi could offer the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon in electric mode.