Henry Ford once said about his Model T, “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” While he may have had interesting ideas about car designs, he knew exactly how to plot the course of his company and, via Ford, the automotive industry. This is the same man who said to the Chicago Tribune, “I don’t know much about history, and I wouldn’t give a nickel for all the history in the world. It means nothing to me. History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.”
Current Ford CEO Alan Mulally has embraced that idea, and he’s turned Ford in a new direction for the automotive industry. Ford is the first company to offer an all-electric option for one of its standard production cars. Much like you can choose between a four-cylinder, a V6, or a V8, the Ford Focus now offers customers the choice between a gas engine and an electric version that consumes no gasoline (as well as a hybrid electric/gas model). This is a marked difference between Ford and Chevy’s Volt or Nissan’s Leaf; this is a Focus, not a specialty vehicle.
“We can’t guess what the demand is going to be, but it’s on the same line [with the gas-engine Focus] and 70% to 80% of the parts are the same, so you can imagine the efficiencies,” said Ford CEO Alan Mulally. “You can see why the economics are what they are.”
The demand for electric-powered cars has been fairly minimal, but since Ford’s all-electric hybrid Focus shares 70 to 80 percent of the parts of a normal Focus, this will allow Ford to be flexible and meet demands, no matter what they might be. If everyone wants an electric Focus, which will retail for $39,995, Ford can build them. If people only want a few, Ford can continue to build similarly-equipped gas Focuses that retail for $25,000; the price of the electric engine and component parts is roughly $12 to $15,000 and will break even versus the cost of a standard car in 7 to 10 years assuming $4 a gallon for gas.
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