Ford Motor Company Australia is in no hurry to join its rivals Toyota and GM Holden in rushing down the hybrid power path, preferring instead to stick with its proven LPG and diesel as alternative fuels.
At a monthly media briefing in Melbourne today (Thursday) Vice President Marketing and Sales, Mark Winslow, said Ford was ‘comfortable’ with its current strategy, which focuses on the E-Gas variant of the Ford Falcon and increased diesel power.
He also intimated that Ford globally was working of “low displacement, forced induction” engine technology, taken to mean small displacement engines that use both turbo and supercharging to provide the power and performance of a much larger engine while offering the fuel efficiency of a small engine.
Ford Australia President Bill Osborne, who normally takes the media briefing but is in the United States where the Australian government is discussing the future of the local automotive industry with both General Motors and Ford, has already said the Falcon will have diesel power by 2010, when it also switches from a locally-made straight six-cylinder engine to an imported V6.
Mr Winslow said Ford definitely saw a lot more diesel-powered cars in its future, along with other developing technologies, but was not really talking about hybrids.
He said the E-Gas Falcon was a proven green vehicle that provided both lower tailpipe emissions and lower running costs.
He cited the example of an E-Gas Falcon XT which he said, run over 25,000 kilometres a year, was $350 cheaper to operate than the best-selling Toyota Corolla.
Mr Winslow said that in the past two years E-Gas Falcons had gone from having residual values $1000 less than a petrol car to commanding a $2500 premium.
Further questioning the rush to hybrids, Mr Winslow posed the question of who would buy all the three year old used hybrids that would head onto the market as a result of the government backed push to encourage Toyota to build 10,000 Hybrid Camry’s a year in Australia.
“We would be concerned about the profile of the second user for such cars, which we expect in the first place will be bought by companies and government.”
He questioned whether typical second-hand private buyers would be keen to take on hybrids, with the potential of costly battery replacement.
“E-Gas on the other hand has the proven record of operating economy plus it is greener, with four per cent less emissions, and that is where Ford is already firmly established.”
Mr Winslow also confirmed that E-Gas was now being built in the new FG Falcon range and said the cars were being shipped to dealers.
He also emphasised that from about 2010 Ford would be pursuing its plans for a diesel engine in the Falcon and added that once the next-generation Focus small car was being built in Australia, it too would offer a locally-made diesel alternative.
He said Ford believed these cars would also present a strong case to government and fleet buyers as alternatives that were fuel efficient and environmentally friendly.
Mr Winslow said that in 2007, of total Falcon sales, 15 per cent of sedans, 41 per cent of wagons and 37 per cent of utilities were E-Gas.
He said Ford had stepped up production of the LPG components about two years ago and was in a position to meet almost any demand for E-Gas in the future.
He also added that by 2010 Ford would have the Australian-built Focus with a diesel engine to compete with the Toyota Camry hybrid when it eventually became available.