2012 Ford Focus Electric: Overly Timid Or Cleverly Cautious?

Ford is rightfully proud of its lithium-ion battery powered 2012 Focus Electric.

The automaker notes that it can be charged in half the time of a Nissan Leaf (under the right circumstances), delivers more interior room, and is ranked as more efficient than the Nissan

Yet, Ford is being very cautious with the Focus Electric’s rollout, releasing just 450 units to dealers in New York, New Jersey and California this spring.

By fall, 16 more states will be added to the list, and Focus Electrics will be available in all U.S. states and Canada by the first quarter of 2013. By then, Ford expects to be producing and selling some 4,500 units annually, according to Wards Auto.

That may be a higher number than it needs to comply with California zero-emission vehicle rules, which may mean that perhaps the Focus Electric isn't strictly a "compliance car" as many electric-car advocates had feared.

Ford is enthusiastic about the Focus Electric’s Microsoft-developed technology, too. In addition to the well-documented Sync system, the Focus Electric offers access to the MyFord Mobile app, which uses cloud-based technology to enable off-peak charging for the greatest cost savings.

Yet there’s also a sense that Ford is holding back on the launch of the Focus Electric--hesitant to commit too much energy or resource to a product that may not succeed.

By even the most generous standards, the Chevy Volt has been slow to gain sales momentum, and even worse, Nissan Leaf sales appear to be slowing in recent months.

Nissan Leaf undergoing extreme testing

Nissan Leaf undergoing extreme testing

Enlarge Photo

And no one, especially Ford, seems to have a clear understanding of why.

Perhaps it’s a price issue, since electric cars sell for considerably more than gasoline equivalents, even after federal tax credits.

Ford’s Focus Electric, for example, will sell for around $40,000, double the price of a well equipped and gasoline-powered Ford Focus.

Then there’s the much-discussed matter of range anxiety. The Focus Electric’s claimed range of 76 miles is on par with the Nissan Leaf, but in the real world that requires planning for any trips longer than 30 miles in a given direction.

Complexity plays a role, too. If you opt to charge the Ford Focus on household (110v) current, it will take some 20 hours to fully charge the batteries.

Opt for a $1,499 Level 2 charger (installed by Best Buy’s “Geek Squad”) and that cuts charging time to three or four hours, significantly less than the time required to charge a Leaf on a Level 2 system.

In the end, by carefully controlling the launch of the Focus Electric, Ford is hedging its bets.

It can easily play the “yes, we have an electric car offering” card, yet isn’t all-in should the Focus Electric prove to be a sales disappointment.


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Comments (22)
  1. Ford has the right idea and so does Tesla. Make an attractive and stylish EV that people will want to buy. Its a tough sell to get people to buy some 3 wheeled so-called futuristic design (Aptera) or a look at me Im good for the enviroment statement like the Nissan Leaf and the Toyota Prius. I am looking forward to seeing a road test between Tesla Model S and other simularly price gasoline powered Sport sedans. Tesla is the only manufacture of EV's that made a car that is spot on in price and luxury with the promise of good performance when compared to car's in its price range. The Nissan leaf and the Plug in Prius look bland in comparison to other gasoline powered cars in its price range and the 75 mile range of the Leaf looks pathetic.

  2. The Tesla Range Effect? When Tesla's least-range vehicles have 50-100% more than the competition, it makes it hard to accept the compromise.

  3. Electrics like the Volt, Leaf and (possibly) the Focus Electric aren't selling because they're too expesive? Well, duh... That's kind of a "no-brainer" in this economy! Make an AFFORDABLE short-term (3-year?) LEASE on these EVs and I believe car shoppers will FLOCK to EVs like the Focus Electric! (They'd have me at "Hello...")

  4. The Volt does have $350/month lease deal. Not to mention the 0% 72 month deal on purchase. Volt is similar priced as the Plug-in Prius after tax credits. So is the Focus. Leaf is competitive vs Prius...

  5. When I last went to my local Ford dealer (authorized to sell the Focus Electric) and to the Focus Electric Web site, Ford was offering ONLY financing to OWN the car. Neither the Volt or Prius, both HYBRID cars, are to my liking since I want to get off gasoline completely. Nissan offers a lease for the Leaf, but technically (in my opinion) the car is not as "nice" as the Focus. And in either case, the lease isn't comparable to the monthly costs (gas and lease payments) for a fuel-efficient ICE car. Again, I ask... And car companies wonder why EVs aren't selling?

  6. I think Ford is planning for disappointing sales. Of course when they slapped on the $40K price tag they pretty much set this car up to fail so disappointing sales may mean the car selling in serious numbers despite Ford's pricing strategy.

    Jokes aside, I think the Focus EV is just about Ford covering it's bases. It's about staying on the government's good side, about being prepared when EV sales unexpectedly take off due to oil shortages or battery breakthroughs, about having a compliance car for states that require them. Plenty of motives, but the will to sell them in any significant quantities from the start clearly wasn't among them when Ford came up with this uninspired offering.

  7. I think this is how Ford and GM is thinking: The American people are so stupid that they will fall for anything...just watch this.... I'll sell you this $500.00, 115 year-old electric car, which isn't really an electric car, for $45,000.00. The reason we have to sell it to you for $45,000.00 is because we have this new technology battery that doesn't really work, but will work just fine if you can wait until the year 2050 until we use up all the oil and we get gas prices up over $7.00 a gallon. Don' pay any attention to the recession...come on, buy it. And stupid Americans do buy it, hook line and sinker.

  8. And now the Volt is a $500 car that is 115 years old...?!?! Please do enlighten all of us with your insight on how the Volt is a $500 car, as well as what about it makes it 115 years old... This should be interesting...

  9. Unfortunately, free speech doesn't come with a requirement, to know what you're talking about....

  10. The more EV models offered, the better for everyone.... The next leaf will probably have a faster charge option using 240v like the Ford Focus EV...


  11. I don't think offering an expensive EV option on one of the least expensive models - and selling them side by side - is going to work for anybody. EVs are a premium, sporty, luxury product and should not be marketed to the lower tier market. Preferably, EVs should not be sold as "gas conversions" and should have a bottoms-up design that matches the style and performance needs of customers that both want an EV and can afford the higher upfront costs.

  12. The people who want to save money on gas are not the upper tier people who can afford these EV. It just doesn't make sense. Only my rich friends own them. They are basicly selling for the enviornmental and politically correct causes.

  13. All new technology costs more to start with. Digital cameras, flat screen TVs etc. We need the wealthy to buy the first several years' production to drive the price down so the rest of us can enjoy the benefit.

  14. Thank you for saving me from having to post this exact same thing :-).

  15. Sounds like the Tesla prescription for the GenIII/Bluestar $30K offering for late 2015 (projected). But it will have big range numbers compared to current EV offerings. TM has the advantage of being a dedicated EV company, of course, now that it's done with the Elise ICE conversion Roadster (the next Roadster will be based on the pure EV GenIII platform; skateboard sub-floor battery, etc.)

  16. At least this car looks better than the Leaf in my opinion. I'm still not going to buy a car that has such a short round trip range. I imagine that rating is the EPA 2 cycle test. Remember that EV do not go as far at highway speeds so unless you speed all your time driving city streets you could drain the battery faster than expected. I like the comments that these cars cover 90% of peoples driving habits. . . . . what about the other 10% of my driving habits?
    That is why I don't think these short range cars sell in this economy at these prices. As battery tech and cost goes down they will increase in range and prices will drop. Car makers should be concentrating on electric vehicles that are in the luxury market.

  17. Speed = spend... darn tablets:-)

  18. Range is not an issue... Charge time and sticker cost are the issues. If you told everyone that they could buy a car that needed to be refilled with gas every hundred miles, but it would only cost $.75 per gallon, all the sudden range means nothing. However, early adopters are vital in reaching economies of scale, and this economy isn't helping any... Plus, politicians were more that happy giving subsidies to help oil companies but they don't want a single dime going toward EV proliferation.

  19. Polititians are more than happy to take political 'contribution$' for giving $ub$idieS to the most profitable companies in history. Electric vehicles are good for the whole world.

  20. Range is still a factor. Speed and accessibility of "fill-up" is the complication. Which is why the Tesla formula of longer ranges (150-300 miles) is necessary for EV success.

  21. Cleverly Cautious. Ford has no illusions of leading the industry into the electric auto age. They are content to let Magna develop the modification to their Focus and pick up some green cred. When the market is mature and profitable, Ford will be there too.

  22. Ford Motor Company knows very well this vehicle will be a debacle, the only reason they do it is because of CARB rules in Commufornia Communist Regime. Every automotive employee will tell you the moment CARB rules is tossed out, the production of EV will be stopped!

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