Ford Focus Electric vs The Leaf (TheCarConnection)
Something is not right about the picture above. Can you see it?
John Voelcker is another journalist covering the EV scene who really has a good feel and insight into what it all boils down to, and is good at condensing that down for us. Writing a review of the Focus Electric for TheCarConnection he penned this:
In the end, buyers need to decide if they want a U.S.-built, low-volume, pretty-much invisible electric car, or a more distinctive design sold in much higher numbers that charges more slowly.
See what I mean? There's the whole ball of wax in less than 36 words. Let's parse that out a bit.
By December of this year the Nissan Leaf will also be built in the US by the good people in Smyrna, Tennessee. I have good feelings about that place because the first brand new vehicle I ever bought, a 92 Nissan P/U, came from there. The truck is still running well, and has successfully dodged my wife's many attempts to coax me into selling. Her view is that its beat up. My view is that it is finally broken in. Plus it has ladder racks now! Do you know how useful ladder racks are when you want to move err umm ladders once a year?
What it means to be built in the US is not as clear cut with foreign owned plants on US soil, and parts sourced from all over the globe on both domestic and foreign cars. That said, during my lifetime I have watched as one US industry after another flounders and disappears overseas. Design and service industries are great but is there anyone who doubts that we must retain the ability to build real goods that can be sold on the global marketplace.? If there is one "real goods" industry that we draw a line in the sand around and say this far and no more, indubitably it must be the auto industry.
In the 2000s the US auto industry turned itself around and started producing really good cars again. Something much of the car buying public seems not to have recognized yet. Then in 2008 we nearly lost the US Auto Industry. I bought a Volt because it is a great car and I believe electrics are a clear path to eliminate all dependence on foreign oil. Voting with my dollars for the American car industry also factored in greatly. I've plunked down a deposit on the Focus Electric for the same reasons.
If you are hot to have an EV this year, it will take a determined buyer to get your hands on a Focus Electric in 2012. For starters, you either need to live near one of the 19 launch cities or be willing to drive/deal with a dealer in one. Taking delivery of a BEV in a dealer more than 100 miles away in a car that the EPA rates at 76 miles on a charge could be a challenge. A challenge which I am personally taking on. From my house to Richmond Ford Lincoln is 91 miles. Mostly highway. How will I do it? The plan is to find some place half way to charge. Probably take the wife for some outlet shopping or lunch or something, it will all work out.
Meanwhile the Leaf is available nationwide, right now, still supply will be tight on the Leaf until Smyrna comes online, but not nearly as tight as the Focus Electric. Ford is talking less than 5000 units as they dip their toe into BEV waters in 2012. Some have viewed this as "not committed" to electrics, I was amongst them in wondering "how committed is Ford?"
We could speculate on a dozen good reasons to go slow right now. EV sales are pretty low right now, but EV component part costs seems to be coming down quickly maybe Ford is trying to hold off its ramp up until the costs get to a better place. Maybe the dealer service techs are not yet trained to the point where Ford is ready to ramp it up big time. Maybe they saw how GM had to do a battery product enhancement/recall and they seek to avoid the same. While GM and Nissan are burning through their 200k tax credit allottment on electric cars that are probably not making them money, Ford could be saving their tax credit bullets for that point in time where they can make money selling them. Of course Ford claims they can make money on the Focus Electric right now. Call me skeptical. Really we could go on an on.
Whatever the reason, I do not think lack of committment to electrics is one of them. Every major car builder has electrics either out or in the works, every nation that builds cars is putting money in to subsidize electrics. Ford would have to try pretty hard not to see that handwriting on the wall.
THE INVISIBLE CAR
This is an interesting question. The Leaf with its "space-frog" design aesthetic screams "I am different, I am electric." It has been suggested that this "unique design" concept contributed to the success of the Prius. For myself a car that delcares its electric powertrain through a "unique" design is not necessary, but others who want their green cred on display may feel differently. Would you favor the Leaf over the Focus Electric because its unique design calls attention to its electrification?