2011 Ford Fiesta

Ford announced it will introduce a new 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine – its smallest ever – between 2012 and 2013, adding to its EcoBoost family of fuel-efficient engines. The new engine will be available globally in the automaker's small cars and will also play an important role in North America.

"Consumers are telling us they want to buy affordable vehicles that get many more miles per gallon," Ford's Derrick Kuzak, group vice president of global product development, said at a press conference in suburban Detroit. "Our new 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine will give consumers looking for hybrid-like fuel economy a new, more affordable choice."

He called the upcoming turbo-charged, direct-injection gas engine "a little dynamo." Kuzak declined to say whether the new three-cylinder would be available first in the US or abroad. Ford will release more details at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany in September.

The automaker first showed a 1.0-liter engine in the small Ford Start city concept car at the 2010 Beijing Auto Show in China. Ford said then it had experimented with the idea of a three-cylinder engine for the past 20 years, but felt the power wouldn't be substantial enough or practical for smaller vehicles. But that conclusion was thrown out the window with the arrival of the EcoBoost technology.

Ford introduced its EcoBoost engine in 2009 and now offers it the Ford Flex, as well as the Lincoln MKT crossover and MKS sedan in North America. It was most recently added to the F-150 full-size pickup, Ford's perennial best-selling model.

Of the nearly 42,400 F-150s sold in May in the US, 41% had the Eco Boost engine, said Joe Bakaj, vice president- global powertrain engineering at Ford.

This summer, EcoBoost will also be available in the Edge and Explorer. EcoBoost became available in Europe this year on the S-Max, Mondeo and Galaxy. EcoBoost is only available with four or six cylinder engines.

More than 180,000 Ford vehicles with EcoBoost engines have already been sold in North America, Kuzak said. Ford earlier had said it expected to sell 1.3-million vehicles with EcoBoost globally by 2013, but Kuzak said the company is boosting that to 1.5 million units.

Ford wants to deliver both performance and fuel economy, he said. The company has 12 vehicles that lead their segments in fuel economy and four vehicles that deliver at least 40 mpg.

The company will release more details about the new, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine in September at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany.

The only car sold in this country with three cylinders is Daimler's small Smart car, although Toyota, Nissan and Volkswagen also offer three-cylinder engines abroad.

Bakaj said at the event that customers aren't counting cylinders, but are looking at how their engines perform in the real world. "It's very clear that to be successful in the automotive business you need to be successful in powertrains."

The automaker also announced it is developing in-house a new eight-speed automatic transmission for future vehicles. "You can't reduce fuel consumption just with the engine, so we need to look at other parts of the engine," Bakaj said. Ford is targeting improved fuel economy of between 2% and 6% with the new gearbox that will provide smoother and faster shifting.

Bakaj said more details would be released at a later date.

author photo

Jean Halliday is a seasoned journalist with the nation's longest consecutive run covering auto advertising. Her years in the trenches include stints at Automotive News, Adweek and Advertising Age. The native New Yorker now lives outside the Motor City. You can read Jean's blog at AutoAdOpolis.wordpress.com.

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