2014 Ford Focus Electric: No Updates, No Love For Ford's Electric Orphan

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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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Rarely has any carmaker launched a car as obviously unloved as the Ford Focus Electric, the battery-electric conversion of a five-door Focus compact hatchback.

As a company, Ford does not believe battery-electric cars will have much of a future for many years to come.

Unusually for a new car, it deliberately said that the Focus Electric would not sell well--and, indeed, the company's prophecy appears to have been fulfilled.

So it's hardly surprising to hear that Ford will make no updates at all to the 2014 Focus Electric.

The Detroit News called Ford's lack of changes an "unusual non-move for an automaker that often tinkers with vehicle packages and options on a yearly basis."

It indicates that Ford has little interest in helping the Focus Electric "gain much-needed traction in the marketplace," according to analysts quoted in the report.

Indeed, in the article, Nancy Gioia, Ford's director of electrification, cites numerous reasons why Ford believes the Focus Electric will not succeed.

And, she said, Ford has no intention of cutting the price of the car to compete with less expensive lease rates offered by Chevrolet, Fiat, Nissan, and other electric-car makers.

Advocates can debate whether the Focus Electric is really nothing more than a compliance car to meet California zero-emission sales requirements.

Ford now offers the car across the country, beyond the handful of regions it launched in.

But sales have been fairly pitiful, at 1,316 from December 2011 through May--against more than 27,000 for the competing Nissan Leaf, which now is--like the Focus Electric--built in the U.S.

So while the small number of owners seem to love their Focus Electrics, their number remains quite low.

To be fair, Ford is not entirely bereft of support for plug-in electric vehicles.

The company has sold larger numbers of its Energi plug-in hybrid models, which it feels offer a better mix of capabilities for average U.S. drivers--and no range anxiety.

Through May, it had sold 4,401 C-Max Energi five-door hatchbacks and 1,194 Fusion Energi mid-size sedans.

What do you think? Is Ford focusing its plug-in efforts in the wrong place? Or are plug-in hybrids, as some have proposed, the "gateway drug" to later adoption of full electric cars?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (43)
  1. We do live in a rare age where some car makers are building cars they don't like. How do they expect to get consumers interested if they show no confidence in the car from the start? Nissan, GM, Tesla, and BMW are showing great confidence in their efforts and consumers are taking notice. That's especially true for Tesla and Nissan.

  2. I think there is a huge difference between unwilling participation in EV sales and "no confidence in the car." A lack of commitment to large sales of a car that loses thousands of dollars on each unit might be seen as savvy business sense. The same holds true for the Fiat 500e, which nearly every review holds to be a far better car electrically than the gas version. Still Fiat has no intention of selling any more than the minimum required to meet California's requirements.

    I'm not sure where you find BMW to be showing "great confidence." As far as I understand, no customer can go out and purchase a BMW electric. And the pricing hasn't been released, but it is understood to far exceed what I would consider to be a reasonable price.

  3. You have to admit a lackluster effort doesn't inspire confidence in consumers, Ford didn't even launch the usual add campaign so what did they think was going to happen. And BMW has stayed pretty vocal on their intentions to launch their electric car, they're not like Audi where they announce their EV intentions and then withdrawal them. BMW has made quite a few press releases and a handful of YouTube videos and has not once show any indication of fear towards electric cars, they've stayed committed to their plans. Not backing down is a show of "great confidence" in their soon to be released i3.

  4. I have a full understanding as to why Ford doesn't embrace the Focus, and I still bought the car because I believe it to be the best product for under $40K. I'm not sure why you folks continue to term a manufacturer not pushing an EV to be "lackluster" or a "sales failure." It's simply an acknowledgment of the cost versus profit. And it really is better than offering nothing.

    I agree with Ford's position. Ford has the luxury of building as many of these that can be sold. They are offering in every state (Alaska??). Ford just doesn't make a big deal about it. So? Is this "backing down" or an "indication of fear"? Saying that simply shows bias against what is currently only five or so manufacturers where you can buy an all electric car now.

  5. "or are plug-in hybrids... the "gateway drug" to later adoption of full electric cars?" I think it's pretty clear that if range anxiety is the disease, plug-ins are the cure. And once you get a taste of electric performance and gasoline avoidance, the next step is pretty clear. Plug-ins will be one-to-a-customer, but that's still a lot of cars.

  6. The other "gateway" is rapid charging. Once you realise that you can "refill" your battery in twenty to thirty minutes, range anxiety becomes charger anxiety, which is no longer a problem with the cars or technology, but the suppliers of "fuel".

  7. I was prepared to consider a Focus Electric when I bought my Leaf, but was turned off by how they handled the interaction. Their website put my phone number on a survey list with an incompetent contractor who made several disconnected calls before giving me a live operator with the survey, then it took two more calls to convince them I had already answered their survey. When the dealer finally contacted me, they said they had "just sold" their Focus EV and did not have one for me to test drive. When I found out it did not have a DC-DC converter like the Leaf, so could not be used for emergency power (making it less useful than a gas car in that regard), that was the nail in the coffin. Sorry, Ford, but you just can't sell cars that way.

  8. Ford just has no clue about EVs and making the problem worse: Independent local dealers (and "Ford" branded dealerships) that are even MORE clueless about how to SELL them! (Maybe Tesla's on to something with direct, web-based sales!)

    C-Max and other Ford hybrids and Energi plug-in hybrids COULD have been a "gateway drug" to EVs. But I think Ford shot themselves in the foot when they tried to go after (and market those cars as alternatives to) the Prius hybrid family!

    And we know soooooo many Prius hybrid drivers have become EV drivers...

  9. @Paul: Do you have data to support the (apparent) assertion in the last line that Prius owners don't buy electric cars?

    Because IIRC, at least half of the hand-raisers for the Nissan Leaf before it was launched owned Priuses.

  10. Paul,
    We owned a 2004 and the a 2006 Prius AND a 2007 Camry Hybrid before evolving to a 2011 Leaf ordered on Day 1 of Nissan taking Leaf orders back in August of 2010. Most of the members of SacEV had a Prius before going to a full EV.

  11. I'm not quite sure I understand your reference to "emergency power" on a DC connection. But I don't expect to see many DC power stations in the next few years, so I don't consider that to be a huge selling point for the Leaf. With Ford, GM, Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Porsche and VW all supporting an incompatible standard than what Nissan has, I think I would rather wait than have a plug no one else uses.

    The Leaf just added faster charging ability this year, and I definitely consider the lack of AC fast charging to be a major detriment to resell of the older Leafs.

  12. Having leased the Focus Electric a month ago, I am one of those owners who loves the car. And I sort of like the idea of owning a low volume car. There are Leafs aplenty in Southern California. I still haven't seen a Focus Electric on the road.

    And really, if you compare the current lease cost to the high-end Leaf, there is very little difference.

    And I do thank Ford for not making any changes for the 2014 model. An owner never likes to hear of big changes after having just purchased a car!

  13. As one of the first focus electric owners in California, I truly loved this car. But after having a problem with a problem with the on board 3G that allows my smartphone to update me on charging and other important features I feeling the pain of Ford's abandonment of this vehicle. Repeated attempts to get the dealer to find the problem has yielded nothing, although they don't appear to have even called Ford for support. Ford on the other hand won't even return my phone calls. None of the people I have spoken with have any real knowledge of this car. It's too bad because this is a good car. Now my wife is stuck with it while I get to drive our new Tesla Model S. Now that is a great car!

  14. I'm afraid I am not surprised. After all, if you were a talented engineer (or even a mediocre one) and you worked for Ford on its EV 'program', after you found out that Ford has no confidence in your work, would you hang around? No, you would jump ship and join Tesla or a competitor (does T have any yet?) that actually believes in EVs. That's why there's no one left to sort out your problem!

    Ford really needs to wake up or 20 years from now it will be in in the same league as Studebaker, Rover, Triumph or Baker, even.

  15. We have the same problem with our Nissan Leaf and its battery. Talking to the dealer and the home office is but a waste of time.

  16. Considering the compliance car price war that's going on it's safe to predict an even more spectacular sales failure for the Focus EV. Not bothering to make the car a better deal for customers makes Ford's prophesy of failure of this vehicle even more self fulfilling.

    It's great that Ford offers its Energi models as an alternative. I'm sure the missing zero emission credits can be bought from companies like Tesla. Everybody happy.

  17. I don't think Ford would term it a "sales failure" because it really isn't a sales priority. Both Ford and Fiat offer EV's, but neither has any intention of selling scores of these vehicles.

    The only manufacturers that I see who have full support and truly want to embrace EV's are Nissan and Tesla. Any of the others are just blowing smoke about their love for an EV until the sales figures come it.

  18. Seattle Ford dealers turned me away from wanting to buy a Ford Focus EV. The sales staff at several dealers had very limited knowledge about the car and were not interested in finding answers to my questions. A dealer's support after purchasing a car is very important and none of them had any interest in their Focus EV.

  19. Ford's lack of love for the Focus Electric isn't any different than Toyota's love for the Rav4 EV. This is life, I suppose, for compliance cars. It's too bad, really, as I believe the feedback from owners, and data provided by the vehicle, can help them improve future cars.

  20. Electric only vehicles are known to have very few maintenance requirements, so the "compliance car makers" are promoting anything with a gas tank strapped under it so their dealer service departments have more work.

  21. I think Ford and other EV manufacturers are biding their time until better batteries make all electrics more practical.
    Reading about Ford dealers disinterest sounds like a broken record from the Chevy Volt community.(that's me) Do you suppose there's not enough cold cash for the sales rep in selling these cars? Hopefully, this will change as the cars get better and more numerous.

  22. I tend to agree with Tesla on this point. All other car manufacturers have a built-in conflict of interest in selling an EV. Why push a car that virtually eliminates brake work and transmission work. No real cooling issues. No engine oil or transmission fluid to change. No tune-ups, no drivetrain.

  23. I have to agree with you Doug. You summed it up well. Why would a conventional automaker want to make an EV that would be as good or better than their gasoline cars. They don't they want too. They want you to buy the gasoline car since it's serves them better since they can sell you all that scheduled maintenance that is required during your warranty period. Tesla must be driving them crazy. I can't wait for the $30,000 Blue star Gen III. That will really hit the automakers were it hurts.

  24. Ford would rather sell more F-150, Expedition or Explorer than EVs...

    "are plug-in hybrids, as some have proposed, the "gateway drug" to later adoption of full electric cars?"

    Depending on the cars. Strong PHEV/EREV such as Volt is definitely a gateway to the future since most Volt owners bought it b/c of the range anxiety and want to have as much EV range as possible. But for some cars such as Prius Plugin, their owners really don't care about it. It is more to increase their "mpg" while keeping the Prius tradition or gain access to HOV lanes...

  25. All the old OEMs that rely on gasoline car sales have a hard time representing all electric cars. They are distracted by their own status quo. On top of that most feel that they are made to make these cars by law and resent that. Tesla gets it right as they only sell plugin electric cars. I feel until a Ford or GM spins off an electric car division they will continue to have problems competing in this market segment. PHEV do fill the gap for them and are great plugin car products. But they all need to truly embrace plugin electric cars that can provide a good All Electric Range to grow this market and compete in the long run. Maybe it will take another Tesla like car company to spring up and eat their lunches before thin will happen.

  26. Fine then, lets boycott Ford and Toyota, hello Tesla, Nissan, Renault.....

  27. The conservative car OEMs are quite content to keep things just the way they are. Why change a winning horse? The present system is almost as good as a mint for them. Why jeopardize the present system?
    OK! The planet is being polluted and ruined. But no one is going to live forever, neither this planet. As long as the dollar keeps on rolling, everything else is unimportant.

  28. Personally, I like the styling, interior layout & thermal battery mngmnt of the Focus EV! My issue is with Ford quality & dealers. Past bad experiences with 3 different Ford vehicles & dealers left me with sour tastes. Last fall I went to look at the Focus EV. The dealer wouldn't allow test drives of the 1 they had (in showroom & not charged), and the salesman trained in EVs was too busy gossiping with the service reps to be bothered and even short with the newbie salesman willing to help me get answers. I'm afraid of is getting a car and not having whole-hearted backing by the mfr and dealer. I truly feel as if it is indeed a compliance car & Ford wants to say "Hey we tried - twice, no one wants one..."

  29. The very same can be said for all the Chevy Dealers that are selling the Volt and Spark EV.

    At least the Nissan dealer sales staff was very "motivated" letting me to test drive a Leaf and seems to be pretty familiar with all competitions as well. (But it was the Nissan dealer that delivered the first Leaf in the SF Bay Area).

  30. Ehhh... I have test driven this car twice in 6 weeks. There is just something about the car I just do not like. Nothing horrible or bad. The trunk in horrible in space because of the battery. The front dash just seems a little too long. Not as quiet as the Volt and Leaf. Decent acceleration and fit, but something makes me feel a little cramped around the head area.

    Not a bad lease deal offered in Los Angeles. $270 a month with $2000 down. 12k a year and no other costs and first 2 months included. I think I could have talked them down even more or had them throw in a few extras. It is well equipped.

    The dealers were really pushing the Energi which I actually liked more.

  31. I like what Car & Driver said about the Focus Electric:
    "[The Focus has] refined manners, precise steering, and playful character. The Leaf is a lot less involving and gratifying to drive; it’s more simulation than stimulation."

    It depends on whether you want an appliance or a driver's car. I'm 6'1" and I don't feel "cramped" in the car. Perhaps an SUV would be better....

  32. Compliance Car sums it up well. At Least Nissan is actually interested in making an electric car albeit a range limited one. Tesla has a great opportunity to become a leader here because they are the only dedicated EV manufacture that truly wants to see Electric vehicles succeed. Nissan is still selling the Leaf like is some sort of medicine for the planet and that it's good for you and maybe a Polar Bear will thank you some day. Support Tesla the Maker of the only unanimously supported Motor Trend car of the year winner shows that Tesla truly wants to make a great car that just happens to be an electric.

  33. Make no mistake about it. For Elon it is just as much or maybe more about 'saving the planet' than it is for Nissan.

  34. Yes, In an indirect way I guess it is. Elon is for making electric cars a viable alternative to gas cars. Nissan along with the rest of the established automakers is just toying with electric cars and would really like you to buy one of their gasoline models instead.

  35. @Mark: Curious as to what makes you think that Nissan is "just toying with electric cars"?

    Nissan and its alliance partner Renault have sold 85,000 battery-electric vehicles to date. That's more than any other maker, and 8 times what Tesla has sold. The two companies build electric cars in four countries (Japan, US, UK, and France) and have remarkably aggressive volume plans that Tesla can't hope to match.

    I know Tesla's the only "pure EV player," but really curious what you base your Nissan comment on.

  36. Its been 4 years since the Leaf has been marketed and Nissan has not done any significant upgrades to the car. It is the only pure Ev in it's price range yet Nissan seems content that it is just good enough. Come 2016 when Tesla comes out with Gen III with a 200 mile range the Nissan will be forced to upgrade the range and features of the Leaf. It is a nice Ev it is just too compromised and I don't think Nissan is willing to keep it ahead of the other seemingly agreed upon 75 mile range Eve's until they are forced to.

  37. @Mark: Leaf has been in production for 2.5 years. Nissan has added a 6.6-kW charger + features US dealers + buyers have asked for, including leather seats and darker interior colors.

    Nissan hasn't upgraded the battery, so I suppose it depends what you consider "significant" upgrades to be. I don't see Tesla having made "significant" upgrades to the Model S during its year in production.

    To your point about the 2016 Tesla Gen III car, I suspect that Nissan will indeed have updated the Leaf by then--or cut the price further to the point where it's noticeably cheaper than the less expensive Tesla. Or both.

    The two cars target different market segments; time will tell which proves larger.

  38. Thanks John. I thought the Leaf had been out longer than the 2.5 years. I would very much like to get an Even and the Tesla 60kwhr and 85kwhr would work for me since I have family and property 57 to 65 miles away and I work 45 miles from home so I need a bare minimum 120 miles of range. I was a bit disappointed when Tesla dropped the 40kwhr model which was predicted to go 150 miles on a charge. I would consider other markers of Ev's but all but Tesla Model as are simply too range limited for the miles I drive. Thanks for the reply. I would be interested in a Leaf it its driving range were at least 120 miles or more.

  39. There are more comments in this thread
  40. I love my Focus electric. Range fears are in the past. It is quick, nimble and quiet. I'm amazed Ford hasn't pushed it at all. It is a great car. Better than the Leaf!

  41. @John: In case you hadn't seen it ...


  42. In my off-hours I have spent a few dozen hours concocting a plan to spin off Ford electric to a new badge - same dealers but a separate network of sales leaders with a separate permission marketing budget and look - not to mention strategy. The economy numbers are stunning, these are incredible cars for the dough, integrate well with solar sales, and the only thing wrong is like you said - no love from big daddy Ford. Numbers that bad are perfect for a massive turnaround - given sun and wind.

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