Ford set to zero in on green
The company is spending $11bn to give its famous blue oval an environmental makeover, writes Martin Brennan
Henry Ford, the man credited with putting America on wheels with his Model T, famously offered it in any colour as long as it was black. It saved him money. He was the man who more famously invented the rolling assembly line to speed up productivity. It also saved money.
The great Henry might be appalled that his great grandson, Bill Ford, has authorised the spending of $11bn to give the blue oval company a green hue. But he would be equally proud that expenditure will not just help save Ford, but also the environment.
The Ford company is now going at full speed into electric and hybrid technology and the $11bn will see a raft of EVs and hybrid vehicles coming to showrooms in rapid succession. Ford is determined not to be left behind in the race by manufacturers to provide clean transport with zero emission EVs and clean economical hybrids (HEVs).
The investment will see 13 new EV and hybrid models go into production by 2020. The first to arrive here is the Mondeo HEV which is now on sale, a new C-Class sized SUV is on the way and the new Focus model which has just been announced with normal internal combustion propulsion will have EV technology. An EV Focus has been on sale in Sweden for some time - the new EV option to arrive here next year will have the latest motor and battery technology. There is also an EV Transit in production and even Ford's great muscle car, the Mustang, is to get the HEV treatment while still delivering V8 power.
There was good news at the launch of the Mondeo HEV when Ciaran McMahon, chairman and managing director of Ford Ireland, announced that the starting price for the four-door two-litre 187bhp automatic petrol engine with motor was €32,745. The top specification Vignale trim version costs €35,250 which is very good value when compared with an equivalent two-litre diesel, nor ally costing over €46,000 but selling at €2,000 less due to a special promotion. Apart from government incentives, there is also a launch price reduction on the HEV. So there are thousands of euro to be saved at both Titanium and Vignale trim levels, and road tax is less too because of lower CO2 emissions.
The Mondeo is late to the electric treatment but is a tried and tested model that is comfortable on long journeys and gives a smooth drive. In HEV mode, two electric motors work to boost engine power and give regenerative charging for the battery pack which eats into boot space behind the rear seat. Ford claims a fuel return of 4.2l/100km while an equivalent diesel model is slightly heavier on fuel, 4.8l/100km in its official figures which adds to the attraction of the HEV, but driving style can vary these figures.
And 20 years on Ford is launching a new Focus later this year to challenge the ever-popular VW Golf and new Ceed and Auris models from Kia and Toyota. All the stops have been pulled out to pack in the latest safety and infotainment technology with new exterior lines and more interior space.
There is a 30mm higher ride height in the Focus Active version as Ford taps into the SUV/Crossover craze. Inside there is more room as the wheelbase has been stretched by 53mm. Outside, the front end looks a bit familiar but there is a longer bonnet and sweeping lines which, with a lower and wider stance, gives a strong road presence. The rear end gets a premium look with high mounted lights and wide spaced Focus letters as used in many luxury models.
Technology includes new Stop 'n' Go, speed sign recognition, lane changing assistance, a Head-Up display, Active Park Assist and new in-cabin safety features.
There is 20pc more torsional rigidity and a continuously controlled damping through the independent rear suspension to improve driver control and passenger comfort. For better performance, there are improved EcoBoost petrol and EcoBlue Diesel engines, and a new eight-speed automatic transmission offers a 10pc fuel efficiency improvement across the range.