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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: January 10, 2011 @ 7:48 pm

    Detroit auto show: Electric Focus gets the green light

    Michael McAleer

    If you were looking for a symbol of the seismic change taking place at the heart of the US motor industry, it came at the end of the Ford press conference at the Detroit auto show, where instead of the usual array of gurgling V8s, roaring Mustangs, or enormous pick-up trucks, the stage was filled with hybrid and electric models, while thousands of blue paper butterflies fluttered down on the crowd. The blue oval is determined to go green.
    Savvy management, led by former Boeing boss Alan Mulally, guided the firm through the worst years in the US auto industry, making it the only one of the big three car giants that didn’t need government assistance to survive. While the others struggled for survival, Ford set out on a strategy to prepare it for the advent of a cleaner, greener motoring future.
    The fruits of these efforts will be seen on forecourts in the coming months, with the launch of three new variants all based on its new C-platform upon which the new C-Max and upcoming Focus range are built.

    Bill Ford unveils the firm's new range of electric and hybrid models

    First up will be a petrol-hybrid version of the recently launched C-Max range, followed by a plug-in hybrid version of the same car, and then a full-electric version of the new Focus.
    The hybrid C-Max is claimed to be able to manage short distance at speeds up to 75km/h on electric mode before calling upon the car’s petrol ending for support.
    The electric Focus is aimed directly at Nissan’s Leaf, promising a full-electric range of 160km on a single charge. It claims a significant advantage over its Japanese rival as it will take three or four hours from a regular electric plug socket, half the time that’s claimed for the Leaf. Ford predicts sales of between 5,000 to 10,000 annually in the US – but is not making predictions on global numbers as yet – and says it has the production capacity to meet excess demand should the situation arise.
    Aside from these electric and hybrid models, the firm’s new strategy to reduce its carbon footprint is also evidenced in a new 1-litre three-cylinder petrol engine coming our way, that promises emissions likely to come close to the likes of the current Toyota Prius and which may well feature in models such as the new Focus model in the not too distant future.
    Alongside the new range of electric and hybrid models, Ford also unveiled a near-production version of its new Kuga model, due for launch later this year. Also based on the global c-platform, the car takes some of its design cues from the new Focus.

    Ford's Vertrek concept, showing what the new Kuga will look like

    Petrolheads need not feel entirely dejected in the greening of Detroit and the blue oval brand. While the dominant theme was the arrival of its new hybrid and electric models, Mulally arrived on stage in the new Focus ST, a car that proves it’s not abandoning it’s racing pedigree anytime soon.

    Ford chief executive Alan Mulally shows off the new Focus ST

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