PH Footnote: Ford's electrickery


Ford has always been good at putting on a show and yesterday's 'Go Further' shindig in Amsterdam was no exception. We had senior executives, plenty of news and - of course - copious quantities of free food and booze. There was even dry ice and laser beams in the arena, although these were to prevent us from catching too close a look at the forthcoming Puma SUV rather than showing it off.

Okay, so sticking the Puma name onto a small crossover feels like an insult to the memory of the much-loved coupe. But the rationale behind the baby SUV is actually pretty similar to that of the original Puma: take Fiesta underpinnings and use them for a model you can charge more for. If people were still buying coupes then they might have done another one instead...

You might not agree with Ford's move towards even more SUVs, but it's hard to fault the logic. A third of European car sales are now somewhere on the spectrum between school run crossover and hulking off-road brute, but only a fifth of Ford's sales currently are. Bosses also acknowledge that some of its offerings have been sub-par. Cough - Ecosport - Cough.


But now it's all about the SUVs. Ford execs openly admit that the new Kuga, which was formally unveiled yesterday, is a more important car than the closely related Focus. The Kuga will be more profitable, but it will also be sold around the world - wearing Escape badges in some markets - while the new Focus is Europe-only.

There will be more SUVs to follow - both the forthcoming Bronco and a smaller sibling look highly likely to reach Europe. You can't really blame Ford for trying to fish in the best stocked part of the pond.

When it comes to the brand's other big push - electification - the message got more confused even as the digital display screens shifted to sparks and lightning. Ford is well behind the curve on electrification and some very creative tallying had gone into the showcase announcement that it will have 16 new electric vehicles, with eight on sale by the end of the year.


Within a couple of minutes it was clear that Tesla doesn't need to panic. No fewer than seven of these new electric models are actually mild hybrids, using the low output starter-generators which are set to be pretty much universal within the next few years. (The Puma's adds around 15hp to the effort of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost.)

Three conventional hybrids were listed - with Mondeo hatch and estate cheekily getting separate entries, so that's really two. The Mondeo is also an update of an existing car, leaving the Kuga as the only new news here.

Confusingly the Kuga appeared in the list of plug-in hybrids as well, Ford going to the considerable expense of engineering two different part-electric powertrains for it. The other PHEV offers were less relevant, the Explorer is only going to be offered in left-hand drive markets and the Transit and Torneo Customs represent a nice niche, but aren't going to get anyone except economy minded airport run taxi drivers excited.


Leaving what felt like it should be the really big news: pure EVs. Two appeared on the screen - the "Mustang inspired" future SUV that Ford has already released several teaser images of and - drumroll please - a pure electric Transit. We did learn that the EV sportscar will be able to travel up to 400 miles on a charge in at least one of its configurations, but that was about as much excitement as the event could offer. Like I said, Elon Musk's resting heart rate remains unchanged.

We shouldn't be surprised that Ford is trying to back every horse. It's a volume player trying to protect its market share - it can't afford not to attempt answers to lots of different questions. But the risk is that in doing so it will have to spread its engineering effort ever thinner and that all these new directions will come at the cost of the performance models the brand has traditionally used to add sizzle to its range. They were conspicuously lacking in Amsterdam.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (7) Join the discussion on the forum

  • dukeboy749r 04 Apr 2019

    I want to feel for Ford, but the writing has been going up on various walls for some time now. And yet they are only just coming to the party, and even then, not in a forthright manner, but less than half hearted, squandering the opportunity to help set some of the direction at least.

    How do big players lose? They watch the opposition, who may well be tiny, and assume they cannot be beaten in their ivory tower, so ignore the warning signs and then one day, you're on a very slippery slope. Scrabbling for purchase.

  • roland82 04 Apr 2019

    Am I being fantastically dense by missing the point of 'mild' hybrids? Is it only for the tax breaks or to reduce average CO2 emissions across manufacturer ranges. What is that 15BHP really adding compared to the increased weight and complexities?

    Also how many different types of SUV can the market support? Personally I'm not a fan, but might customers reach 'peak SUV' soon.

  • G.Fraser 04 Apr 2019

    Come on a Ford! Release something cool! I’m holding out for a high output mild hybrid Focus RS.

  • Fastdruid 04 Apr 2019

    Yawn. More SUV's.

    My last two cars have been Ford's...and technically 2 1/3 of my wifes as well[1] but not the next one.

    Looks like I'm going to be one of those old fogies who's stuck in an era. Mine being pre-2012 before *everything* went auto only and tiny turbo's.



    [1] One Ford, two Mazda's but of the era when they were 2/3rds Ford owned. Large numbers of parts on the current one have FoMoCo casting marks or labels!

  • sjg 04 Apr 2019

    roland82 said:
    Am I being fantastically dense by missing the point of 'mild' hybrids? Is it only for the tax breaks or to reduce average CO2 emissions across manufacturer ranges. What is that 15BHP really adding compared to the increased weight and complexities?

    Also how many different types of SUV can the market support? Personally I'm not a fan, but might customers reach 'peak SUV' soon.
    It's exactly that. The manufacturers are desperately trying to get CO2 down on their popular SUVs, without spending too much money. "Mild hybrid" systems are cheap and easy to package, CO2 comes down a bit, some buyers think they're getting Prius-like efficiency.

    Relevant tweet from Harry M: https://twitter.com/harrym_vids/status/11134242509... - the European CO2 targets (and there are similar in other places too) are going to hit some manufacturers really hard. Those who can't electrify quickly are going to get hammered.

    As for Ford and their SUVs, they're moving away from regular cars altogether. US market is just getting trucks, SUVs and the Mustang. SUVs in most sizes will sell throughout the world, the hatchbacks for Europe are probably on borrowed time.

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