Ford is investing $135 million to develop more electrified vehicles to compete better against Toyota, the automaker that continues to dominate the hybrid powertrain market.
Toyota has sold more than 186,200 hybrids in the U.S. through July, or 75% of all 249,300 hybrid sold in the U.S. in that period. Ford, by comparison, sold about 9,300 in that period, according to data from HybridCars.com.
Ford will soon have six vehicles with electric motors for sale in the U.S., said Joe Bakaj, vice president of powertrain engineering, with more to come.
The Focus Electric is already on sale in a few states. An all-new C-Max hybrid that gets 47 miles per gallon and will be Ford's most affordable hybrid in the lineup at $25,995, goes on sale next month. The C-Max Energi plug-in follows in November which can reach 85 mph in pure electric mode. Also coming later this year are the Fusion hybrid and Fusion Energi plug-in and a Lincoln MKZ hybrid.
The hope is the new products will offer consumers an alternative to Toyota products and Ford will communicate what it says is a lower price and better fuel economy of some of its vehicles, said Amy Machesney, C-Max marketing manager.
With plans to continue to expand its electrified portfolio, Ford eventually will have about 1,000 engineers working on hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles at its 285,000-square-foot Advanced Electrification Center in Dearborn. The building has been known as Advanced Engineering Center.
Some of the money invested in this consolidation is from $5.9 billion in U.S. Department of Energy loans Ford received in 2009.
So far there are about 360 engineers working with lithium-ion batteries and other components in Dearborn, but more will relocate from nearby buildings, said Kevin Layden, director of electrification programs.
Layden is hoping the bulk of the 1,000 engineers will be housed in the center within eight months and that should bring benefits of having the electric team under one roof.
In particular, he wants a solid team of people who work with batteries and packs, motors, inverters, controls and calibration.
Layden said Ford has added about 70 workers to the electrification team in the last year and will add about the same number in the next 12 months.
Ford has doubled its battery testing capability since 2010, Bakaj said. Getting data faster has accelerated in-house product development by 25%.
Ford buys its battery cells, but designs and makes many of the battery packs.
Manufacturing of front-wheel-drive transmissions for hybrids has shifted to Ford's Van Dyke plant from a supplier in Japan, a move that added 225 jobs in Michigan.
Since the introduction of the Escape hybrid in 2004, Ford has reduced the cost of its hybrid technology by 30%, largely by switching from nickel hydride batteries to lithium ion. Costs will continue to come down substantially over the next five years, but Layden said he is not sure another 30% is possible.
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