Question of supply
The main question in the minds of buyers and industry observers is not whether Ford can build a decent offering. The company's done that.
It's whether or not the Focus Electric will be offered throughout the country, in volumes that will enable any buyer who wants one (and can afford the $40K price tag) to step up and buy it.
Its main competitor, the Leaf, will now be available for immediate purchase at selected Nissan dealers nationwide: no more online signup and waiting.
Early next year, Nissan will begin building 2013 Leaf models (with some equipment upgrades) in Tennessee. When all parts of the battery and car assembly process are running at full speed, it will have the ability to build up to 150,000 Leafs a year--if market demand exists.
Ryan Reynolds and Ryan Hall in an ad for the 2012 Nissan LeafEnlarge Photo
By way of comparison, Alan Mulally, Ford's CEO, told Bloomberg that the company would be satisfied even with sales of fewer than 5,000 Focus Electrics in the first year. (Nissan sold 9,674 Leafs in the U.S. during its first year.)
As for pricing, we asked John Viera, Ford's global director for sustainability and vehicle environmental matters, how the company arrived at the $39,995 total (a base price of $39,200 plus a mandatory delivery fee of $795).
He said Ford priced the Focus Electric by "looking at the competitive set," which is obviously the Nissan Leaf. There's a base 2012 Leaf SV at $35,200, but the more popular Leaf SL model has a base price of $37,250.
Ford feels that the faster charging, standard equipment level, and sportier vehicle dynamics of the electric Focus make it worth more than the high-level Leaf.
That may be true, though the nice round price of $40,000 produced noticeable sticker shock among several electric-car advocates we spoke to.
Viera says Ford is "making a profit" on the electric Focus--despite his CEO's claim that the battery pack cost is $12,00 to $15,000--so perhaps there's room for some creative price-cutting in the future.
Either way, we look forward to a more extended test of the 2012 Ford Focus Electric. It's a new and viable competitor in the growing plug-in market.
If you can get one, that is.