Ford Motor Co.’s product development chief says one way to make electric vehicles more popular is to give them wider appeal.
Hau Thai-Tang, Ford executive vice president for product development, said noted that even when gas prices were high, consumers didn’t especially gravitate towards EVs or hybrids. Thus, Ford is preparing to roll out a unique EV with the broad appeal of a crossover and more performance.
“EVs have great instantaneous low-end torque,” Thai-Tang told TheDetroitBureau.com after briefing by senior Ford executives, including CEO Jim Hackett.
During the presentation, Ford confirmed the development of a battery-electric crossover. Details of the EV, however, were off the record.
Ford also confirmed that it was expanding its sport-utility vehicles designed to go off road that will match up with vehicles of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.’s popular Jeep. SUVs have been a key part of Ford’s product line for nearly three decades.
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The Ford Escape is now the second most popular vehicle in the Ford line after the F-150, but Ford SUVs have always been more comfortable on pavement than off road. The Bronco and as yet un-named vehicle will be specifically aimed at the off-road market by 2020, Thai-Tang said.
“Trucks and SUVs are going to fuel our growth and profitability,” accounting for almost 90% of Ford’s sales volume by 2020, said Jim Farley, president of global markets.
Meanwhile, Ford’s F-series pickup trucks alone represent a $41 billion business – more than Coca-Cola or Nike. The pickup business has grown steadily since introducing aluminum-bodied trucks in 2014 and underpins the company’s financial stability.
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Farley said compact EcoSport and revamped full-size Expedition that recently went on sale, Ford has a new Explorer and Escape in the pipeline, too. A high-performance Explorer ST is also coming.
Ford offered a broad look at its future plans. But with sales soft and its stock prices stock in low, low gear, Ford executives clearly felt they needed to show investors that they have a convincing plan to boost profits and margins in the not-too-distant future.
Karl Brauer, Executive Publisher of Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com and Autotrader, said, “Ford will be in an aggressive product evolution mode over the next two years.
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“The integration of both safety and fuel-efficiency tech will bolster the company’s competitiveness as the industry is moving faster than ever toward advanced driver assist and alternative energy. Most automaker’s will follow a similar path by 2020, but Ford’s comprehensive approach, including its commercial offerings, should ensure stable or improved market share with potential growth in volume and profit.”