With the exception of advances
to existing technology like turbocharging, and a few fuel
cell demonstration vehicles, we haven't heard much from Ford. Ford
currently only has three hybrid vehicles available on the market, and all three
are essentially the same vehicle (Ford Escape Hybrid, Mazda Tribute Hybrid, and
the Mercury Mariner Hybrid).
Ford is currently content with sitting back and letting GM
and Toyota develop plug-in hybrid technology, and it will jump
in after all of the heavy lifting has been done. "If customers aren't
buying them, we're not making them," said Ford Senior Manager of Energy
Storage Ted Miller. "If there's going to be a true plug-in hybrid market,
we're going to be there. It's just that that's a huge commitment to actually go
Ford says that its “wait and see” approach to plug-in
hybrids gives it more focus and additional funds to develop and produce
traditional hybrid vehicles. The company is currently in the process of putting
the final touches on the production version of its Fusion Hybrid sedan.
However, with Toyota working on a plug-in version of its
next generation Prius and GM taking
up headlines with its Chevrolet Volt, Ford may be left without a star
player in the race to produce vehicles that derive a large portion of their
propulsion from electricity.
GM took a wait and see approach when the Prius first hit the
market, and saw that it missed a great opportunity to place itself at the
forefront of automotive technology. GM officials made it a point not to let
that happen with plug-in hybrids and its efforts in the field with the Volt
have so far out shadowed Toyota's efforts. Only time will tell, however, if
public mindshare with the Volt will turn into sales of the estimated $40,000
Ford saw its sales dip 11% in May -- which included a nearly
20% decline for its stalwart F-Series trucks. With more Americans realizing
that they don't need full-size trucks for their daily commutes during a period
of record gas prices, the Honda Civic/Accord and Toyota Corolla/Civic went
on to outsell the mighty F-Series during the month of May.
As Ford slowly builds its hybrid fleet and sits out the
plug-in hybrid craze, it is hoping to bring a more fuel efficient, next
generation Focus along with a new Fiesta to quench America’s thirst for fuel
efficient vehicles. Both vehicles, however, won't make it to the U.S. until
2010 at the earliest.