Lately it’s become obvious that China -- not the U.S. -- is the place to be if you’re an automaker wanting to develop electric cars.
Daimler already has an electric vehicle partnership with chinese company BYD, and more recently General Motors announced it would start developing electric cars in China with its longtime Chinese partner SAIC.
Now it looks as if Ford is seriously considering an electric vehicle partnership with Chinese partner Changan Automobiles Group in order to gain access to the highly lucrative chinese auto market.
In an interview with Bloomberg Television while he was in in Chongqing, China last week, Ford CEO Alan Mulally explained that the Chinese government’s aim of 1 million electric-powered vehicles on the road by 2015 makes the chinese market ideal for Ford.
“As we move to more electrification, you’re going to see more hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all electric cars”, Mulally said, adding that the success of electric cars in China would depend on infrastructure and battery technology advances.
Last year, over 18 million vehicles were sold in China, representing a market significantly larger than either the U.S. or European auto markets.
2012 Ford Focus Electric launch, New York City, January 2011 - Nancy Gioia
Combine this with the drive towards lower emissions cars, and its easy to see why Ford wants a piece of the action, spending over $1.6 billion to build four new factories in China for its cars.
Unlike GM, Ford has already agreed to comply with tech-transfer rules in China to share its tech secrets with its Chinese partner in order to bring an electric car test-fleet to China -- but hasn’t said what car that will be.
Given the fact that Ford has produced over half-a-million Focus hatchbacks since 2005 for the Chinese market, we’d like to hope that its 2012 Focus Electric could be in line for a Chinese market debut.
More likely however, is for Ford to develop a new range of electric cars specifically for the Chinese market, leveraging local battery suppliers to keep costs down.