Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ford set to battle Japanese in Hybrid war?

I've read several places today that Ford is getting ready to battle the Japanese in the Hybrid war, well if they are, they're outgunned and out flanked. The truth is that Ford's Escape is a great vehicle and the expansion into the Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute clones is a good idea. But Ford needs to get better control of suppliers and materials. Currently Ford buys their batteries from Sanyo and Pansonic, who also supply Toyota and soon Nissan and Subaru. The transmissions are purchased from another Japanese firm Aisin and the brake charging system is from a German firm. Now the Japanese suppliers will become a problem for Ford in several ways. First as the dollar falls compared to the Yen, parts will increase in price. Second, and maybe more important is that now that other Manufacturers such as Nissan and Subaru are building Hybrids, capacity will be stretched. I personally think the Japanese firms will feel pressure to fill commitments to these new players from Japan as well as Toyota.
Ford also needs to expand it's Hybrid lineup to include a broader and more competative part of the market. The Focus with a Hybrid drivetrain would better serve Ford in future competition from Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Subaru as well as future Hybrids form Hyundai and Kia.
Ford had tried the Electric Rangers a few years ago, what about a Hybrid Ranger? It could slow the tumbling sales of this former class leader. And with Fleet sales of Ranger, could have a great impact on the environment and economy as well. Think of all those Commercial Rangers using less fuel. Rangers are popular with delivery and service firms among others.
The Fuison/Milan are a certain benifactor of Hybrid tehcnology and would compete with the Honda Accord Hybrid well.
Don't forget about the FreeStyle/MetaOne crossover wagons, perfect for families looking to get out of gas sucking SUVs.
Any future MPV or mini van type vehicles should also be considered likely Hybrid candidates.

The "flagship" 500 could benefit from Hybrid powertrain as well, especially with the available all wheeel drive.

Ford has been doing a lot of talk about inovation and technology. What they need to do is find alternate vendors for their systems or even bring it in house and sell to others. Form a partnership with another manufacturer like VW or GM for sharing of technology.

The future looks Hybrid, at least in the short term, and since many of the vehicles above use the 3.0 L V6 from the Escape, hopefully the Hybrid's powertrain would fit in these other models as well. At least Ford isn't coming late to this party, being way ahead of domestic and foreign competitors alike. Only Toyota and now Honda are positioned to overtake Ford in this if they allow it. But this is not something that happen slow, Ford needs to get going and have more models available soon. Toyota is going to have a varied lineup of Hybrids very soon.

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