While GM and Chrysler are betting their future on government bailouts, Ford is banking on being the U.S. automaker to lead the green car revolution. A few days after the disastrous display by the big three in the halls of Congress, William Ford, Jr. - Executive Chairman of the company and great-grandson of founder Henry Ford - was out talking about energy independence and electric cars.
He was also talking candidly with NPR about his surprise over the lack of well thought out plans from the auto executives to present to Congress and his sensitivity to public opinion. He seemed to understand that there were a number of screw ups that needed to be addressed, perhaps including that Ford was even there with GM and Chrysler in the first place.
Ford is in a different position than GM and Chrysler. For one, they have enough cash and credit to continue current operations through the end of next year without the need for government help. They also have the benefit of a true believer when it comes to the environment, as opposed to GM whose chairman Bob Lutz has made more than one comment questioning the science of global warming. A commitment to making more fuel efficient cars is nothing new for William Ford, Jr., though, who when he was CEO of the company, spoke passionately about the environment and brought the Ford Hybrid Escape to fruition. And some recent comments from Ford, Jr. continue that tradition:
Ford said he was committed to helping Obama end U.S. dependence on foreign oil, whether Detroit got a bailout before the end of the year or not.
''It's all about fuel economy and energy independence,'' he said. ''I passionately believe that Ford can and should be part of that solution.'' - International Herald Tribune
At the same time that Ford, Jr. was advocating for hybrid vehicles as CEO, the company was not making a dramatic shift to producing more fuel efficient vehicles. And during his tenure, there always appeared to be a tension between his ideas and the direction the company was actually going with its SUV production. Things seem to be coming more in line with Ford, Jr.'s way of thinking these days, however.
At the end of October, Ford rolled out two new 2010 hybrids -The Fusion Hybrid and Milan Hybrid, both of which can travel up to 8 miles and as fast as 47 miles per hour solely on electric power. Their fuel economy is 30 miles per gallon, city. And while that still can't beat a Toyota Prius, that's 5 mpgs more than the Hybrid Toyota Camry.
One very cool feature of both cars is the SmartGauge on the dashboard:
SmartGuage technology. Inspired by the Toyota Prius's hybrid energy/consumption monitor, the SmartGauge goes further by helping the driver to learn specific techniques to achieve higher efficiency. The dashboard interface offers feedback to the driver-both visual and sound. - Hybrid Cars
While all of Fords other hybrids are SUVs, the Mercury Milan will be its first hybrid sedan. Ford also plans to equip half a million of its engines over the next 5 years with its new EcoBoost technology which promises up to 20% increases in fuel efficiency.
Ford has a history of making fuel efficient cars in Europe, and that is something that Ford, Jr. says they will draw from telling NPR that "Ford Motor Co. is bringing its efficient European models to the U.S. and the company will build them here."
Ford has been far from perfect in terms of getting on the fuel efficiency bandwagon, but of the big three, it is showing the most commitment to making more fuel efficient vehicles. And for that, it is good to see them in a position financially to make that a reality.