Ford Invests to Challenge Toyota in Green Car War

Ford Invests to Challenge Toyota in Green Car War

Ford is looking to gain ground in the green car market, investing heavily in engineering for the long term as it plans to roll out several new electrified vehicles this year.

In a statement Ford Motor Co. said it is investing $135 million into designing electric-drive components and battery testing, hiring 60 new engineers with plans to hire “dozens” more. Ford will also make its plans more official by renaming its 285,000-square-foot engineering center the “Ford Advanced Electrification Center.”

According to the automaker, bringing the engineering in-house will help reduce the cost of hybrid systems by 30 percent, while it also believes it will speed up the development process by 25 percent.

“The good news for customers is that they not only have more choice, but they have faster access to Ford’s latest and greatest in fuel-saving technologies and vehicles,” said Joe Bakaj, Ford vice president of Powertrain Engineering. “This stems directly from our decisions to deliver true power of choice by expanding our dedicated electrified vehicle team and further investing in our facilities.”

Currently, Ford’s share of the electrified vehicle segment is small, with Toyota claiming over 70 percent of the market. Not helping matters is Ford’s decision to axe the popular Escape Hybrid, while the Fusion Hybrid grows old, with less attractive styling and uncompetitive fuel economy numbers.

But the push is already on at Ford to roll out a new line of electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. Earlier this year Ford introduced the Focus Electric with a 110 MPGe city rating and a charge time of just 4 hours – roughly half that of the Nissan Leaf.

With the introduction of the 2013 Fusion, Ford will add two more green machines to its fleet, with the Fusion Hybrid, which is expected to best the Camry Hybrid by 5 mpg on the highway for a 47 mpg highway rating and 44 mpg in the city, while a Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid model is expected to get as much as 100 MPGe.

But before then, Ford will introduce the new C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi, which it hopes will fill the void left by the Escape Hybrid. The C-Max gasoline-electric hybrid will achieve 47-mpg city and highway, better than the Toyota Prius v, while costing $1,300 less. As for the plug-in C-Max Energi, it will get a 95 MPGe rating with a total range of 550 miles.

Look for AutoGuide’s first drive of both C-Max models next week.