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Ford's Green Future

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author photo by Autotrader June 2011

As the automotive world continues to recover from the recession, every manufacturer is retooling to meet modern demands with more fuel-efficient vehicles. Of the major brands, Ford's reinvention in this area has been one of the most complete, and now, after a five-year effort, the company is beginning to see the pay off.

Crediting consumer demand for fuel-efficient vehicles as one of the main drivers, Ford pulled in $2.6 billion in profit during the first quarter of 2011, a $466 million increase from a year ago. Ford's April sales alone were up 16 percent from last year.

"With gasoline prices eclipsing $3.90 a gallon, consumers are placing an even higher priority on fuel efficiency in every size and kind of vehicle," said Ken Czubay, Ford's vice president of U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. "Ford's plan to lead in fuel efficiency is saving our customers money at the pump and helping us to profitably grow our business."

Already Ford has twelve vehicles that lead their respective segments in fuel economy. Models such as the Fusion Hybrid, Escape Hybrid, Fiesta, Focus, and even the new Explorer all deliver in this area.

While those vehicles are a good start for consumers who want greener options, the company has even more fuel-efficient–or completely fuel-less–vehicles on tap for the near future.

Later this year Ford will introduce its first consumer-oriented all-electric car, the Ford Focus Electric. With a 100-mile range and quick charging speeds, the Focus Electric will go toe-to-toe with other plug-ins such as the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, and Mitsubishi i-MiEV. In addition, by 2012 Ford will introduce hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of its C-Max small crossover/microvan, as well as one other redesigned hybrid – likely built off of the yet-to-be-revealed new Escape compact crossover platform.

These new vehicles will provide consumers with one of the most balanced assortments of vehicle technologies and fuel-efficient choices from any manufacturer.

The impetus for all this change began back in 2006, when the company's then-new president and CEO, Alan Mulally, had a meeting of the minds with the newly appointed president of Ford America, Mark Fields, in which both saw a chance to grow the company by making fuel efficiency a top priority. In the fall of that year, Ford borrowed huge sums of money for the purpose of pursuing this new strategy – an action that led to Ford not having to partake in any bailout cash from the US government.

"That judgment and action provided sufficient funding to pursue our product plans even if the worst befell the US economy," said George Pipas, a long time Ford sales analyst, in an interview with AutoTrader. "Unbeknownst to us, just about the worst did befall the US economy and it was very fortunate to have that funding available."

Now that the worst of the recession seems to be over and consumers are once again in a mood to spend a bit of money, Pipas credits Ford's new lineup with its sales success.

"More than 80 percent of consumers have altered or changed the type of vehicle they are purchasing because of higher gasoline prices," said Pipas. "We're seeing this in the marketplace with strong sales of small cars and also more fuel efficient powertrains, engines and transmissions."

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Ford's Green Future - Autotrader