Ford says consumers pay extra for a fuel-efficient powertrain

Article by Christian A., on August 9, 2012

Consumer research revealed that 1 of 4 car buyers will agree to pay more for a fuel-efficient powertrain if the investment can be recovered in four years or less, according to Joe Bakaj, Ford Motor Co.'s vice president of powertrain engineering. Due to this discovery, Ford was able to create a blueprint for releasing electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and other fuel-efficient powertrains.

The other factors that are significant include ease in refuelling and sufficient vehicle range. At the Center for Automotive Research's 2012 Management Briefing Seminars, Bakaj said that a model with all the three attributes is a good candidate for volume sales. This formula was useful when Ford started producing its EcoBoost lineup of gasoline engines.

EcoBoost engines offer direct fuel injection, turbochargers and small displacements. Generally, Ford charges $800 to $1,200 higher for EcoBoost engines. Bakaj said that consumers have been snatching them. For instance, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine is more expensive than a V-8 and yet, about 43% of F-series pickup buyers choose the costlier option.

Ford has set the price of the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid at $29,995 (after accounting for the incentives and destination charge). Bakaj said that it won’t be able to reach the four-year payback test.

Ford doesn’t consider this as a huge problem since Ford isn’t spending large amounts to get a production boost. Ford will roll out the C-Max Energi on the same assembly line as conventionally powered versions of the vehicle.

This means that Ford can then be flexible enough so that it can present other fuel-efficient powertrains to cope with demand. Ford wants to offer a hybrid powertrain and so it has been occupied with creating designs for its mainstream vehicles, including global cars like the Focus and Fusion. [source: Automotive News - sub. required]

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