By John Addison (3/5/10)
Ford Takes Hybrid Customers from Toyota, Plans Plug-in Leapfrog
Ford outsold Toyota in February in the United States. Ford’s monthly sales of 140,319 vehicles were up 43 percent over February 2009, while Toyota sales dropped 9 percent to 100,027 vehicles. Part of Ford’s success is that its hybrids are taking on Toyota’s. Next year, Ford will try to leapfrog Toyota with electric cars.
Ford’s growing success comes at a time when Toyota is recalling millions of vehicles, and suspending sales of key models, due to accelerator pedal problems. More customers now feel safer in a Ford, Mercury, or Lincoln than in a Toyota or Lexus.
“The good news is we have even more new products and fuel-efficient powertrains coming this year, and we expect our progress to continue,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing Sales and Service. In January and February, Ford sold 28,638 Fusions, closing in on Toyota’s Camry with 32,344 in U.S. sales; in light-trucks, Ford dominates with the F Series selling 60,525, and the Escape selling 25,909. With renewed interest in fuel economy, the Fusion Hybrid and Escape Hybrid are a growing part of Ford’s success.
Toyota commands four of the top 10 positions of Clean Fleet’s . Toyota’s four are the Toyota Prius, Lexus HS 250h, Toyota Camry Hybrid, and Lexus RX450h. Ford commands two slots with the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the Ford Escape Hybrid.
Hybrid SUVs are part of the battle. With better SUV fuel economy, the Ford Escape Hybrid is taking market share from the larger Toyota Highlander Hybrid and the pricey Lexus RX450h. In 2012, Toyota will try deliver the best hybrid mileage with a new RAV4 Hybrid. Ford, however, keeps improving the Escape’s MPG and has added hybrids planned.
Toyota will fight hard to remain the hybrid leader. Its plans include a sexy CR-Z sports car hybrid, a hybrid minivan, and lower cost sedan offerings such as a hybrid Yaris and/or Auris.
Toyota is putting 500 Prius Plug-in Hybrids into test. When I last saw the Plug-in it looked almost identical to the best selling hybrid Prius. The Plug-in will only have a 14 mile electric range before the engine is engaged. Ford’s 2012 plug-in offering is likely to have a 40 mile range, but at the expense of needing at least double the lithium battery capacity of the Prius Plug-in. We could see a price versus electric-range battle, with both companies doing well.
So far, electricity is proving to be a safer fuel than gasoline. The industry does fear a lithium thermal runaway making the evening news. Toyota has been ambivalent about switching to lithium batteries. A renewed caution at Toyota, delay its plug-in offerings, thereby creating an opportunity for Ford, GM, and others.
Ford is rolling out a family of plug-in offerings. I have been impressed with my test drives of the Ford Focus EV and Ford Transit Connect Electric. By next year, you can order either of these battery-electric vehicles.
Ford’s strategic direction is to offer families of cars where the customer can select the preferred drive train including a performance gasoline-engine, Ecoboost fuel saving engine, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or pure battery electric. Smarticd forecasts that in 2012, Ford will offer a new Ford Focus with all of these options. The Fusion many not be far behind. The global family approach has the compelling potential of expanded customer choice and improved profit margins.
Toyota Hits the Breaks
After repairing over one million vehicles, on March 4 Toyota received another setback when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notified Toyota that some owners have reported unintended acceleration after receiving the accelerator pedal recall remedies.
Toyota’s accelerator pedal recall and suspension of sales is confined to the following Toyota Division vehicles:
• Certain 2009-2010 RAV4,
• Certain 2009-2010 Corolla,
• 2009-2010 Matrix,
• 2005-2010 Avalon,
• Certain 2007-2010 Camry,
• Certain 2010 Highlander,
• 2007-2010 Tundra,
• 2008-2010 Sequoia
Which models are involved in the floor mat pedal entrapment recall?
2007 – 2010 Camry
2005 – 2010 Avalon
2004 – 2009 Prius
2005 – 2010 Tacoma
2007 – 2010 Tundra
2008 – 2010 Highlander
2009 – 2010 Corolla
2009 – 2010 Venza
2009 – 2010 Matrix
2006 – 2010 IS 250
2006 – 2010 IS 350
2007 – 2010 ES 350
Toyota is just getting started with repairs to recalled vehicles. With only one million repaired, over six million await work. Details at Toyota FAQ
Ford Chases GM’s Market Share Leadership
Not only did Ford pass Toyota in February, Ford almost passed GM to take #1 market share leadership. Ford sold 140,319 vehicles to GM’s 141,551. Ford wants the number one position ahead of GM, Toyota, Honda, Chrysler, Nissan, and all the others. Impressive is that Ford has been able to grow without the $70 billion bailout that went to GM and Chrysler.
Hybrids and electric cars will be a growing part of the battle for market share. Nissan will be the first to deliver 10,000 electric cars with the Leaf, but Nissan has been weak in offering hybrids. GM plans to be the plug-in leader with the Chevy Volt, followed by the Cadillac Converj, but GM has been weak in offering hybrids with real fuel savings.
In the short-term the battle will be fought with price promotions, quality, and safety. In the long-term the battle will also be fought with fuel economy, electric drives, and lifetime operating cost for the customers.