Ford Focus Electric Won't Sell Well, Says Ford

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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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Some makers are investing in battery electric cars and doing their darnedest to make them market successes--think Nissan or Tesla, for example.

Ford does not appear to be one of those companies.

Since the second month that its plug-in hybrid C-Max Energi went on the market, its monthly sales have exceeded the total sales of the Ford Focus Electric for all of 2012.

Now, Ford has said that despite adding an additional 700 dealers certified to sell its range of plug-in vehicles, it expects Focus Electric sales to grow only slowly. 

The company has long said it expects battery-electric vehicles will make up only 5 percent of its electrified-vehicle sales, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery electric vehicles.

Ford says it can build up to 100,000 such vehicles, depending on market demand.

That would mean it expects to sell no more than 5,000 Focus Electrics--and, indeed, it sold just 685 during all of 2012.

C.J. O'Donnell, the company's group marketing manager for electrification, told The Detroit News that those sales were "meeting our expectations in the marketplace."

And, he said, as more dealers are certified to sell the car, sales should rise accordingly.

Ford has often countered claims that its Focus Electric is no more than a compliance car put on sale solely to meet California's zero-emission vehicle requirements.

O'Donnell told the Detroit News that he encounters that idea a lot, "and I don't want to say I take offense to it, because that's kind of strong."

Instead, he says, Ford views its Focus Electric strategy as offering "choice" to its customers.

It offers the electric Focus in several regions outside those where ZEV sales count toward the mandate, but its sales resemble compliance-car volumes more than those of the Nissan Leaf or even the Tesla Model S.

And Ford's pessimistic view of the opportunities for battery-electric vehicles were underscored today by Mike Tamor, the company's executive technical leader for hybrid, electric, and fuel-cell vehicles.

In a presentation at the SAE Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Technologies Symposium held this morning in Anaheim, California, Tamor spent his first 10 minutes highlighting the many reasons Ford does not believe that battery-electric vehicles will be affordable or appeal to car buyers for quite some time.

An early slide in his presentation described the situation in the early 1900s, when electric cars were limited in range, speed, and recharge time, and asked, "Why should it be any different this time?"

2012 Ford Focus Electric, New York City, April 2012

2012 Ford Focus Electric, New York City, April 2012

Enlarge Photo

In a presentation of vehicle usage and customer desires, Ford said the market studies on car usage must capture owners' need for occasional [long-distance] uses, rather than focus on typical or average uses. The presentation did not mention multi-vehicle households.

"If customers demand cost breakeven AND high functionality," said Tamor's presentation, then "battery cost must be impossibly low (less than $100/kWh)"--a level unlikely to be reached until well into the 2020s, if ever.

But Ford was hardly the only battery-electric car skeptic at the SAE symposium; Toyota spoke from a similar perspective.

Greg Bernas, a member of the team that developed the Toyota RAV4 EV with Tesla Motors, conveyed the company's viewpoint that battery-electric cars were expensive, limited by a lack of charging infrastructure, and only suitable for short-range urban travels.

For medium- and long-range transportation, Bernas argued, the zero-emission vehicle technology of choice will be the hydrogen fuel cell--and Toyota plans to launch a hydrogen-powered production vehicle within several years.


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Comments (54)
  1. Well they lost one sale to a Leaf in the last month with us. I wanted to buy a Focus Electric, but the only certified dealer in the state (Iowa) said they'd be unable to get one for at least sixth months. Sounds like a compliance car to me. :(

  2. Not Available At All In Australia. Does that Mean It's A Compliance Car?

  3. I purchased a Ford Focus Electric in November. I LOVE the car. Excluding the Tesla S pure electric cars have a 70-80 mile real world range. I own a Prius too. My first preference is to drive the Focus Electric. It truly is a fun car to drive.
    People stop me all the time to ask about it. It is a great second car. I plug in at home via a 220V charger. It only takes 4 hours from zero charge to 100%. Current Leafs take approximately 8 hours. I can comfortably drive a 60-70 mile radius, charge at my destination and drive back. The Focus looks great and drives great.

  4. 240 V instead of 220V...

  5. To be fair, the "current" LEAF is the 2013 model and a similar 6.6kW charger (like the Focus) is now available (yay!). But even with the old one, it was actually more like 7 hours if you actually ever drained to near zero. I like the looks of the Focus though but don't want to give up the trunk space and rear leg room.

  6. Well, to be more fair: most Leafs also fast-charge, so it's actually more like 50kW, and 30 minutes.

    I think DC fast-charging is an often overlooked yet important feature (sadly not available on the FFE): it makes regional trips inconvenient instead of effectively impossible.
    E.g. for 110~120 miles: would you be ok having to stop for 2h to refuel? Now what about 15 minutes?

  7. Ford has a hit with the FFE but dont even realize it. There is a decent sized market of families with desire or need for a second, commuter car. This hits the range marks for most regular, every day driving. It is styled, fun to drive, and maintenance costs insanely low. i dont get the marketing studies.

  8. The people at Ford (or Toyota) are not selling the EV's. They intentionally are on a self fulling prophecy. If they were actually serious about selling the EV they should shake up the upper echelons beginning with putting Mr. Tamor on the carpet.
    I went to a Ford dealer close to my home with the intention of test driving an FFE and the sales staff was not interested in talking to me. Most of them didn't even know where the FFE was on the lot.

  9. Well, we can cross out Ford and Toyota from our Electric shopping list then...

  10. All indications point to EV non-commitments on a wide scale from these manufacturers. Same ol’ PR, lip service, and hanging out on the fringes. They seem to be comfy taking a back seat to Tesla and the Leaf.

  11. Interesting considering how Henry Ford's wife preferred to drive a Detroit Electric... The market may be small, but not to promote your products when they seem to work well makes no sense.

  12. We have a 2012 Focus Electric, and absolutely love it. Most people who walk into the dealership don't even realize there is one on the floor. Ford puts so little effort into calling attention to their own great product. It performance is great, and with little effort we reach 100 miles on a single charge. Its the best EV under 40k, I encourage anyone interested in EV's to take one for a spin

  13. I can understand why they would not want to draw attention to the Focus Electric. What does a dealership make most of their money on? Maintenance. And electrics need nearly zero maintenance. Great for us, but the dealerships are probably not happy.

  14. If they would just offer fast charging on the Focus Electric, I would consider going with it. Medium distance travel is quite possible if the car can take high voltage DC.

  15. The focus electric is a good car and a step in the right direction, but I wonder why they even bothered coming out with it when they already had something better - thr C-Max Energi.

  16. I think there is a big difference bt plugin hybrids and full electric. Knowing that you never have to buy gas again and not deal with the maintenance issues of a gas car makes a big difference

  17. I love how the old car companies are trying everything they can to delay and do there damndest to thawrt the electric car, and promote better gas mileage and the hydrogen car. The hydrogen car is just a gimmick and nothing will ever change. The oil companies will start drilling for hydrogen instead of oil and instead of paying for petrol you will pay for hydrogen. Once the hydrogen is depleted whats next? Our great grandchildren will be in the same predicament we are in today, only with hydrogen instead.
    I think its time the world's population takes a stand and progress the outdated technology of a combustion engine and head towards a renewable energy source our future generations can be proud of.

  18. @Chris: Ummmmmm ... you're joking, right? You do know that "drilling for hydrogen" is an impossibility, right?

    To create the H2 that is stored at high pressures in armored cylinders and run through a fuel cell to produce electricity, you have to use large amounts of energy to crack it out of the molecules it's naturally bound in. Those could be water (H2O) or many different hydrocarbons, including natural gas.

    Whatever feedstock you choose, however, you have to invest a lot of energy into making hydrogen as a vehicle fuel. And if that energy is electricity, it is FAR more efficient to use it to charge a battery that powers a motor to drive the wheels. You'll get far more miles per kWh.

  19. @john.......joking about what?

  20. @Chris: You don't "drill for hydrogen". It does not exist buried deep in the earth. The hydrogen molecules used in fuel cells have to be refined from other stuff.

  21. @ John Voelcker : technically hydrogen does exist buried deep in the earth and can be drilled for. After drilling it up it still needs to be peeled from the hydrocarbons like natural gas it is attached to of course.

    Since with current technology natural gas is likely to be the main source of hydrogen Chris Hewitt's drilling remark isn't that far besides the truth.

  22. i was basing my remarks from a story published by a journalist......

    Don't tell me its a lie?

    Couldn't be a lie from a journalist!

  23. Curious story LOL! Hydrogen is extremely reactive (which is why it's so expensive to make it work) and it was my understanding that the closest location to "drill" for pure hydrogen was Jupiter but who knows, it could be right below our feet.

    All we need to do apparently is dig a really deep hole, stop a bit short of hitting China and gather those miraculous hydrogen filled rocks. Who knew...

  24. John Voelcker is correct. You don't drill for hydrogen. Hydrocarbons contain hydrogen (H2- pure hydrogen) but they are two separate entities. It's like getting carbon by burning a t-bone steak. Yes, the steak has carbon in it but you have to oxidize (burn) the steak to get to carbon. You can drill for liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons but they have to be chemically processed release hydrogen. H2 does not equal CH4 (methane).

  25. There are large amounts of greenhouse gases released when converting hydrogen from gas or is that environmentally friendly? any hydrogen leaks in the fuel cell vehicle or pipeworks or manufacturing sites can damage the ozone is that environmentally friendly? The cost of converting hydrogen from these elements are so expensive your fuel bill would be more than what it is today.
    Not to mention driving around with a high pressure fuel cell in your car doesn't give me warm fuzzy feelings of being safe.
    Your correct, there are currently no hydrogen mines at the moment but that does not mean its impossible.

  26. I'm speechless.

  27. I test drove both and since the range of the BEV is sufficient and the C-Max is ugly I went for the FFE. I've had it two months and I REALLY like it.

  28. The non-compliance car line up of Leaf, Focus BEV, BMW i3, Spark, and Zoe seems to argue that there's a "segment", which is surprising given how new the Li-ion powered electric car is. Since the Focus is a "World Car" for Ford, I'd like to see them push it a bit more and NOT be so downbeat.

  29. I have heard from a number of people that they are "put off" by the unusual arrangement that was used to cover and incorporate the battery in the storage area of the Ford Focus EV. Perhaps a bit more energy on customer preferred design features could assist sales?

  30. I don't understand Toyota talking about fuel cells. The infrastructure build out costs would be astronomical compared to electric. Maybe if they put more R&D into battery tech we'd have a more affordable option sooner and the electric infrastructure is largely in place. I know we need more charging stations but they are a tiny fraction of the cost of a start from scratch hydrogen build out. Maybe this is just more PR smoke & mirrors.

  31. When the internal combustion engine vehicle was first introduced people laughed and said that it could only drive on paved roads and that there weren't enough gas stations to make it viable. i.e. the horse would reign supreme.
    That's where we are now with battery electric vehicles. Charging stations will be everywhere in time. Batteries will get better in time (250 mile radius battery will convince a large sector of the public). Battery costs will come down.
    All you have to do is look back in time to see comparisons to electric cars today. The early model tvs were luxury items for the rich. Content came along as did mass production. Prices dropped.
    BTW people complain about payback on electric vehicles. No one says that about BMW 750s

  32. We have a Focus Electric and it's a great car to drive!
    Unless you have a long commute or plan taking a long trip, an electric vehicle makes sense for many maney people. Taking kids to school, going to the gym, shopping, work, etc. are key activities of daily living that the Focus does with great (and silent) style. Ford should be marketing the Focus more aggressively. They're poisoning there own success by failing to bring out the large niche of buyers who are sick of paying for gasoline.

  33. I knew I wanted to drive a fuel efficient car when I bought the 2004 Prius in October 2003. Gas was $1.40/gallon and people laughed at me. The Prius was a "gateway" vehicle for me. I was hooked. 4 years latter I put 4.2kW worth of solar panels on my roof and a 240V outlet in my garage. As the public embraced the Prius I was already planning for my future electric car. I waited... and plotted... until the Focus Electric came along. I drove it and I was hooked... soon I was mainlining 240V charges where ever I could find them. As I said the Prius is a gateway vehicle... in time people will get a taste of a BEV and then they'll be hooked... Ha, Ha, Ha... being addicted to the plug is a heck of lot better than being addicted to oil.

  34. Paid $1.54 Per Liter today For Petrol,I Think It's Aprox 4.5 Liters to A US Gallon. I Have A 5Kw on House and 240V Is Standard Here In Australia. I would Love A Electric Car But The Only One Available Now Is The Leaf At 48k And with Zero Subsides Buy Either Federal Or State Government And Basically No Charge Stations It's Out Of My Reach. Sorry The Tesla Roadster Is Available At Around $208,000 To $238,000.

  35. I have a 2013 Focus Electric and I have to say it has been so far a great car. It has sporty styling, handles great, and is plenty quick. It's a second car for me, as my previous daily driver was an older Honda CRV which I have kept for longer trips. The Focus is usable for 99% of my daily driving and commuting and the range of 70 miles or so is more than adequate for me. Ford should really be "focusing" on selling more Focuses because they have done a great job with the car and I am sure they would sell a bunch of them if more people even knew they existed and if Ford's salespeople were adequately trained and knowledgable about the vehicle. It is a fantastic car and I have no regrets at all about buying my Focus !

  36. Ford and Toyota's cavalier attitude towards BEVs demonstrates why Tesla is so important. Only those really interested in making it work will move the concept beyond the scope of short range city cars. Not those comfortable doing ICEs until the oil runs out with some vague expectations of the hydrogen miracle to really happen one day.

  37. Don't you see a pattern? Toyota and Ford are pretty much #1 and #2 in hybrids offering today... Why would either one of them jump into electric while they are still trying to milk very dime off their hybrid investment?

    Neither believes in electric and their hybrids will be the biggest road blocks for BEVs b/c they cost so little to run on $/miles...

  38. @Xiaolong: Actually Toyota is # 1 and Ford is # 3 globally, after Honda, which is # 2. But your point is valid nonetheless.

  39. I said "offering". Honda has been in the game longer than Ford, especially globally. But Ford is catching up with its "Offering" or "selection" of models.

    Then again, feel free to add Honda to that list too. Honda is NOT serious about anything Electric either... Try to find a local Honda dealer for a test drive on the E-Fit is more than a pain for me...

  40. When I drove the C-Max as nice as it was, every time the gas motor turned on it was a letdown. Same with BMW's ActiveHybrid 3 that I tried before committing to the Focus. One way that you can look at a hybrid is an electric car saddled with even MORE weight. I understand the desire for Volt type systems, gas back up. Maybe it's because I own an airplane, I'm just not doing "range anxiety" my Ford doesn't get selected for those missions.

    Btw, its really great to see all the Focus BEV owners like the car as much as me. It really is a fun little car. The only issue I have is trying to creep forward in tight spaces like coming out of a parking spot. It almost calls for left foot or hand braking to make sure the thing doesn't jump.

  41. Maybe Ford needs some "Geniuses" to sell this car. People who own it seem to really like it.

  42. You mean all the positive testimonies in this thread? They all seem to come from first time posters somehow. The term cybershill comes to mind...

  43. ...yeah, I guess. I mean after I had posted, I did notice over at the My Ford site someone had said go on here, but like I said, I already had. They've only sold 600 of these things and you'd have to assume the vast majority of those people are not "car" people. I'm thinking more like turbo charged Prius owners.

  44. I agree. From the spec, I think Focus EV is the best BEV under $40k. If Ford wanted it to be competitive, it could have lowered the cost to the Leaf level and it would have sold better than the Leaf on performance alone.

    The downside of the Focus EV is its looks. NOT b/c it doesn't look good. It actually looks great among all the BEVs out there. But it might NOT look "different" enough to stand out. Many of the "green" buyers want to make "statement" with their purchase. Prius "scream" hybrid and Leaf "scream" BEV. You can pick those cars out of a crowd from miles away. Focus EV don't stand out. Many buyers like that for that exact reason but it also turns off many other "green" buyers.

  45. Internally Toyota is fighting this battle with the next Prius. The company is split into 2 camps. One wants to keep the funky unconventional "hey look, I'm green" look. The other wants a mainstream look. The mainstreamers say that most consumers want a conventional looking Prius now that the early adopters have proven it works. This is the approach that Ford took but they took it to keep costs down. The people that come up to me and ask about my car say that they like the looks... "it doesn't look like a spaceship".

  46. There is no "cybershill" here. I am the one who bought his silver Focus Electric in early November. I am the one who suggested that anyone who is happy with their Focus Electric should stand up and say so. Chris, if you don't own a BEV you can't understand the joy of bypassing the pump at $4.30/gallon in California. This is the electric version of a mainstream car manufactured by the 9th company on the Fortune 500 list. I have no connection to them other than this is the FIRST American car I have EVER purchased. Besides being green I believe in buying American. I have no stock in Ford and I have no stock in any oil company (no mutuals, no retirement fund). Why can't satisfied customers stand up and say that they enjoy their car?

  47. Sorry, it was just a hunch with so many first time commenters stepping up to say nice things about Focus EV. If it's an initiative from some owner's forum it's not a case of cyber shills of course.

  48. i may be a new poster, but not a shill. I do not own a FFE. I am attempting to save up and make a purchase. Eventually, i hope, the Ford dealers in my area will support this car.

    My point to breaking my lurker silence is that this article highlights what i see as the major drawback to EV acceptance.. "marketing research" and possibly purposeful miscommunication by car companies. I am no sales genius but i see a market for the EV as a second/commuter car. But the concentration of thought seams to be trying to get the current EV technology to replace the full use, long range gas vehicle. The currently pushed media message is that if an EV cannot drive from DC to Connecticut, then its not ready. I disagree.

  49. It's really great to see the Focus owners come out to spread the word! Y'all should stop by more often.

    Like me, maybe you get discouraged as I do to hear Ford and Toyota's anti EV rhetoric. Why do all cars need to be long distance cars? Pure electric cars are viable now for such a large percentage of households. I cannot imagine running all of the stupid little errands I run with our Leaf in an ICE car instead. Two miles here, three there, all of these trips would be cold starts with a gas car which is the worst, dirtiest possible kind of driving. Hybrids are not much better. Cold starts several times a day are not good.

    I spent less than $200 in electricity to drive 7300 miles in my first year of ownership. EV's just make so much sense.

  50. Have the 2013 FFE. Very fast. I want to take it to the track and see what a 1/4 mile and 0-60 clock out. Not that I am into fast driving, but it is the best car I have owned.

  51. Let me know what you get. I am curious to find out about the times. Very few sources have listed the time...

  52. One thing that really impresses about the C-Max and Focus BEV is how well the overall package is put together. I haven't owned many US built cars and having spent some time in BMW's ActiveHybrid 3 last fall, I was really impressed by the ford. Maybe the materials and fit and finish aren't quite at the level of the BMW but the overall impression is of a very thoroughly developed vehicle.
    The Focus/C-Max platform is the number one selling passenger vehicle world wide and the billions Ford spent developing the car are all to the benefit of the BEV version owners. It's not a carbon fiber wonder car, but by being able to take advantage of much of the development for the ICE car, Ford gets to do an attractive "alternative" version of Focus.

  53. One last thing, just because its a "green" car doesn't mean that's the way you drive it. Because there's no warm up time, I go FULL Blomqvist as soon as the thing is in D. I'm sure the people in my subdivision have to be wondering about who's rallying around on Blizzak's in the silent Ford. The car really is fast just because of the instant torque factor, it means in normal road situations often you can drive it a fair bit faster than ICE because you don't have to call attention to yourself with noise as you slice and dice.

  54. It's flickable!

    Not sure the same could be said for the Tesla Model S. FocusBEV- Ari Vatanen would approve, Stig as well, and I hope Toivonen has one in Heaven.

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