Ford Focus Electric A Compliance Car? Ford Swears It's Not

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2012 Ford Focus Electric, New York City, April 2012

2012 Ford Focus Electric, New York City, April 2012

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There are two kinds of electric cars on sale in the U.S. these days.

The first kind--the ones you should pay attention to--are the volume electric cars. Their makers want to sell as many as they can.

The second kind are the "compliance cars," built solely to meet California regulations that require six large automakers to sell a certain number of zero-emission vehicles by 2014.

And whether the Ford Focus Electric is a volume car or a compliance car is the topic of hot debate among electric-car advocates.

Now, Ford’s latest group marketing manager for electrification, C.J. O'Donnell has weighed in with the company's point of view: "It's not a compliance car."

But unlike other competitors that he says are "forcing the volume levels" for battery electric vehicles, O'Donnell suggests that Ford is content to be "very measured and [let] the market come to us.”

Instead, he says, Ford thinks that plug-in hybrids derived from its latest generation of hybrid cars--the 2013 Ford C-Max and 2013 Ford Fusion--will find more success in the U.S. market than the pure battery electric Ford Focus Electric.

O'Donnell notes that education will be required and that a market for plug-in vehicles has to "emerge over time."

"There will be a time when there is increased demand for these cars," he told Plug-In Cars, "as people understand how they fit into their lifestyles.”

As author Jim Motavalli notes in his interview of O'Donnell--who rotated into his slot just two months ago from the company's struggling luxury brand, Lincoln--"What else is Ford going to say at this point?"

The Ford Focus Electric today can be bought only from about 200 Ford dealers, located in California and other states--mostly those on the West Coast and in the Northeast.

2012 Ford Focus Electric

2012 Ford Focus Electric

Enlarge Photo

O'Donnell says the company will certify more than 700 additional dealerships to sell plug-in cars, and that eventually the Focus Electric will be available in all 50 states.

Whether the Focus Electric is a compliance car or something more, there's little debate about four other electric vehicles to be sold this year and next--which their makers will build only in volumes sufficient to meet California Air Resources Board rules for 2012 through 2014.

These compliance cars are the Chevrolet Spark EV, Fiat 500E, Honda Fit EV, and Toyota RAV4 EV.

What do you think? Is Ford being honest about its plans for plug-in cars, or is it only building the Focus Electric because it has to? How many do you think it will sell?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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