With an Electric Ford Focus, Why Do We Need the Volt?

The electric Focus should look something like this

The electric Focus should look something like this

Here’s a quote GM doesn’t want to hear from auto analysts: “Why do we need the Volt?”

GM has spent years and untold amounts of money developing their electric Volt concept. The quote is from Bill Pochiluk, an auto analyst with Automotive Compass. He said it in response to the news that Ford is preparing to release its own electric vehicle, despite having spent almost no development dollars of its own.

Ford’s electric Focus has been developed almost entirely by outside supplier Magna International (which has built cars for BMW, Mercedes-Benz, GM, and Chrysler, so don’t write them off). The electric Focus is due in early 2011 and expected to have a 100-mile range per charge. 

Ford’s strategy seems to make a lot of sense, as GM’s in-house development of the Volt has hit many road blocks and drained the company of valuable and hard-to-come-by money. 

While GM will earn bragging rights for developing the Volt on its own (if it’s successful), the bottom line is that consumers care a lot more about price than bragging rights. In this case, I’d expect the electric Focus to come in well below the estimated $40K cost of the Volt. 

The one drawback for Ford, if it can be called a drawback, is that Magna is free to sell the same technology to other automakers. Ford doesn’t seem to mind, though, because the more successful Magna is, the more the price of their technology will drop. Ultimately, that’s beneficial for Magna, for Ford, and for anyone buying an electric car. 

The partnership between Ford and Magna is a great example of the teamwork needed to efficiently achieve and distribute innovation in the auto industry today. Ford seems to be taking advantage, while GM struggles to succeed in innovating on their own. 

It all comes back to the question above: Why do we need the Volt?

-tgriffith

11 Comments

  1. The old GM EV1 originally was hurried to market with lead/acid deep cell batteries. Range was about 40 miles. They later swapped these out for NiMH batteries and the range increased to 100. Most everybody that drove the later model loved them.

    GM claims that they were too expensive to produce (3 handbuilt per day)and would not sell in large enough numbers to make them profitable. It would also be expensive to stock replacement parts if there are only a few thousand sold.

    They spent 100’s of millions on a new body, interior, etc. Why couldn’t they take an existing platform (such as the Malibu), reinforce the frame/springs/shocks to take on the additional weight and swap the drive systems? Once you grow a market for this type of vehicle, then you come out with the new model with more: power, range, style…

    another randy

  2. Why cannot someone produce the old GM EV1?
    What are the facts about the EV1 and not the rumors?

  3. Adam, I agree with you 100%. People will always find ways to voice their opinion, which is the cheapest commodities, I think.

    As for Ford vs. Volt, I think Volt do have one advantage: the longer range. So long there is still gas station, you can drive the Volt. If you live one hour outside the city and must drive 2 hours every day, 100 miles range for the Ford Electric just won’t do. Not counting holiday driving!

    But Ford is FAR FAR SMARTER than GM in this case. People that drives 2 hours everyday will not buy a Volt anyway, its high price will stop most people that just trying to say $5 everyday on gas. Ford will sell 2 or 3 thousands of these electric cars (because of its low price) and then comes out with the 2nd generation that goes 200 or even 300 miles, (to fight Nissan and Toyota electric cars of course!) and sell millions, then I think I shall choose one then…

    Why all the sudden in the past two years Ford is much smarter than GM…that is the real question to ask

  4. Wow. I wish this discussion was about electric vehicles and their becoming more practical, rather than a rant page about industrial politics and nationalism.. Too much to hope for, I guess.

  5. Ford was not bailed out. Only one of the Three, ironically they got both car and truck of the year @ the detroit auto show. Funny how that works sometimes…@Adam

  6. AS an aside the Australian V8 cars from Ford and GM can be seen racing now on chanel7 australia. Haver a look and see proper cars.

  7. Wow Randy where in GM did u work.G8 is actually an Australian car GMs biggest seller in that market it was developed from an Opel/Vauxhall body in Aussie over the last 20 years it simply got a new nosecone hood and badge for the US it is also sold under Vauxhall and Chev names elsewhere. Saturn sky was a Lotus subsequently a Vauxhall VX220 and simply has a Saturn badge on the Vauxhall grille insert.GM sank because it build huge gas guzzling junk for the US market that suddenly americans wont buy. The rest of the world thinks $5gallon gas cheap. Ford is bringing its European range to the US GM has sold theirs and since Opels are the basis for Vauxhall Saab and Saturn GMs euro range is gone. GMs Holden fleet is totally made in Asia/Australia and could rebadged for the US market but are they that smart?

  8. Whet ever happened to that Jerky Government Motors guy that says “We Win”? Win What?

    GM does not have a clue and that goes for Chrysler also.

    I will never buy from either of those two ever again, specialy after I have just bought a great car from Ford…Now two of them. I can SAY fter buying form GM and some Imports, FORD makes the best Vehicles in the world for sure!

  9. But isn’t part of Obama’s strategy to create new jobs by having these companies manufacturing there own EV’s?

  10. What’s drained GM of “valuable and hard-to-come-by money” is dumb niche products like Camaro, G8, Skye/Solstice, XLR, fake hybrid vehicles and the continued succession of bloated gas hogs and overlapping models. Who needs four different grilles and nameplates on a Chevy Equinox?

    The real irony is that GM has already done the electric car once (as did Honda) and you would think they could come up with something more attractive than the usual overpriced hypemobile. EV1 should have given them some real traction, but as a former GM employee, I can tell you that the company has ZERO institutional memory. That’s because the bloated management ranks are in a constant state of reorganization and people-shuffling to make it appear that they have some legitimate function.

    This is exactly why President Obama has asked for Rick Wagoner’s head as a condition to get more cash from the government. You have to be inside one of these companies to get an appreciation for just how slow and cash-inefficient they are. You can also see the difference between Ford (who is about three years ahead of GM on this curve) and GM. Ford managers are now smart enough to hire a supplier to do the job, who can turn it around at half the cost and development time, and likely do a better job.

    Until GM can eliminate about 65% of it’s bloated, GMI/Kettering-educated cadre of group-think managers, there’s not much hope.

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