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Ford Motor Co. is banking that an “unprecedented” investment in new fuel-efficient engines and transmissions will deliver the performance and fuel economy customers are increasingly demanding.
And, according to the Detroit New, the company is so confident of the new powertrain that it is tabling plans to build a smaller, lighter version of its F-150 pickup and import its Ranger compact truck from South Africa.
Ford Americas President Mark Fields recently said that the automaker is making the investment to catch up with changing consumer demands for smaller gas-sipping vehicles.
Much of the new investment will be spent on rolling out Ford’s new EcoBoost engines, which combine turbo-charging and direct injection to deliver more power and better fuel economy. Ford’s head of advanced powertrain research, Dan Kapp, said the company also is looking at a technology called “ethanol boosting” that could make those engines even more efficient.
EcoBoost will debut on the Lincoln MKS sedan next year and quickly appear in other models. Ford’s bread-and-butter F-150 pickup will get the EcoBoost in 18 months, Ford said.
Company sources privately told the Detroit News that Ford is hoping the fuel-efficiency gains delivered by this engine will obviate the need for the smaller pickups the automaker had been planning to sell.
Though sales have collapsed in the face of rising fuel prices, Ford’s F-series remains the best-selling vehicles in the United States.
“We have no intention of giving up our leadership in trucks,” Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s global product development chief said Wednesday, adding that Ford will now make fuel efficiency a priority on all its vehicles. “Fuel economy (will be) a reason to buy – no longer a reason to reject – Ford vehicles.”
At least one analyst said the Ford truck strategy makes sense.
“The small pickup segment doesn’t really provide a lot of benefit,” said Erich Merkle, an analyst from Crowe Chizek and Co. “You buy a pickup truck for bed space and towing. There really isn’t much substitute for a full-size pickup. But it all depends on what happens to the price of fuel.”