Detroit: Ford focuses on electric future, not present crisis

Detroit: Ford focuses on electric future, not present crisis  
Filed under:
Green, Motor Shows, Ford
on 01/12/2009

An economic crisis? In the American auto industry? You’d never have guessed Motown was facing Armageddon if all you saw was the Ford press conference on the Detroit Show’s opening morning.

No mention of the tough conditions was made by Ford chairman Bill Ford, CEO Alan Mulally, or any of the other senior executives who addressed a packed Cobo Arena. Instead, Mulally and co grinned, and delivered a masterclass in spin.

Ford had increased its US market share for the past three months, Mulally proudly informed the gathered global media. Never mind that the market fell 36% in December; 2008 had been “a pretty good year”, Mulally told an increasingly incredulous audience.

Then again, you can see the logic of accentuating the positive. Ford’s recent product launches have been well-received, and the company unveiled a crucial new US model at the show – a new Taurus.

The revival of the Taurus nameplate has been warmly received in the US. The original 1980s Taurus was a major success for Ford – in 1992, it beat the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry to become America’s best-selling car. But a second-generation Taurus flopped, and the brand was dropped a few years ago.

Mulally also announced an extended test-drive programme for the new Fiesta, which will involve 100 European-spec Fiestas being offered on long-term loans to US customers. “We hope to get up to 10,000 people behind the wheel of the Fiesta before it is launched,” Mulally said.

Beyond these initiatives, the message from the Blue Oval was strictly green. Bill Ford announced extensive “electrification” plans, involving hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery-electric cars, including a BEV based on a Focus-sized platform which is being developed jointly with supplier Magna, which will be sold worldwide at a volume of 5-10,000 units.

“We will launch at least four high-mileage battery-electric vehicles by 2012,” said Bill Ford. “Our global electrification strategy is not a test plan – it is aimed at making Ford the leader in battery technology.”

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