Ford is taking a cautiously optimistic approach to hitting its target for sustainability and compliance. A new study, and the company's recent sales figures, have revealed to Ford that there are limits on what consumers will pay and what they expect in return. About one in four car shoppers are willing to pay extra for a green, fuel-efficient car, if they can recoup their extra investment in four years or less.
Joe Bakaj, Ford's vice president of powertrain engineering, said recently that the study is helping confirm the automaker's blueprint for rolling out battery electrics (like the Ford Focus Electric, which has very limited sales volume so far), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (i.e., C-Max Energi), and traditional, yet fuel efficient, vehicles.
Looking at its sales figures, Ford is seeing consumers are willing to pay an additional $800 to $1,200 for its vehicles with EcoBoost gasoline engines. An obvious example has been the F-Series pickup with the EcoBoost option on its 3.5-liter engine, where 43 percent of these F-Series pickup buyers are opting in. Direct fuel injection, turbochargers, and small displacement are making EcoBoost very popular.
Ford has been very targeted in marketing the C-Max Energi this fall in direct competition with the Toyota Prius Plug-in. Pricing starts at $29,995 (after incentives and destination charge), and it's supposed to go almost twice as far on battery alone compared to the Prius Plug-in – 20 miles versus 11 miles on a fully charged battery. Competing with the popular Prius brand makes sense, but the consumer study has indicated that the C-Max Energi will not meet the four-year payback test, Bakaj said. Ford is limiting the amount of funds it will spend on tooling up production capacity, which reduces its investment and risk.
One areas where Ford is not hedging its bets is on one green technology – it ahs a spectrum of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, pure electrics, and fuel-efficient vehicles at dealerships and in the product pipeline. At this point, though, EcoBoost is where Ford is seeing the strongest returns.