John Voelcker over at GreenCarReports is suggesting in this post that the following cars are compliance only cars:

Chevrolet Spark EV

Fiat 500 Elettrica

Ford Focus Electric

Honda Fit EV

Toyota RAV4 EV

Here are his criteria for a compliance car versus a real car:

We'd suggest that any plug-in car has to meet the following criteria before it can be considered real:

It's sold outright to consumers, not only leased; and

It will sell at least 5,000 or more a year in the U.S. or reach total global sales of 20,000; and

It's offered outside the 'California emissions' states, or will be within 18 months

Any car that doesn't meet those tests at a minimum isn't a serious volume car; it's either part of a test fleet or it exists just to comply with the ZEV requirement.

Speaking specifically about the Ford Focus Electric Voelcker writes:

But the company's absolute refusal to answer the kinds of questions normally discussed at a new car launch--rollout plan, lease versus purchase, production targets--combine with some worrisome statements by company executives to make us think Ford is only minimally committed to battery electric vehicles.

Our verdict: Until proven otherwise, the Focus Electric is a compliance car that will nonetheless be heavily touted by Ford whenever it needs to buff up its green credentials.

John has his hand on the pulse of the EV world so his assertions warrant strong consideration.  On the first four vehicles he lists there can be no debate, the statements from the manufacturers make it pretty clear those are compliance/test vehicles.  On the Focus Electric I disagree.

Rollout Plan.  Ford isn’t giving numbers and who can blame them after the way Nissan and GM were chopped up for coming in just shy of their goals for first year sales.   Also, EV acceptance at this point is clearly tied to gas prices.  If the world economy tanks again, and gas goes down.  All EV bets are off.  That said, Ford clearly has a national rollout plan as detailed by this map:


The FFE can be bought outright so there is another contra indication of a compliance vehicle.

The “worrisome statements” by company executives are presumably the statements by Mulally and others at Ford that even if they sold less than 5000 FFEs in the first year they would still consider that a success.

Going slow the first year on a car with a completely revolutionary power train system makes good sense, if for no other reason than the level scrutiny on these cars has been through the roof. Thus getting it right, or at the very least only having limited numbers in the wild with a problem is part of the driver for low first year numbers. Ford, like GM is no doubt doing full on QC on every one of the early vehicles coming off the line.

Ford was right to recognize that in Magna they had an extremely competent component manufacturer who had already done the work to develop a sound electric drive system.

Ford’s “power of choice” reasoning isn’t just marketing gimmickry. They truly believe a standardized chassis with several power train options is good business. I tend to agree, if they can pull it off, the cost advantage of their method would be substantial.  It is no wonder GM decided to try the same with the Chevy Spark.

As EV components and batteries get better and smaller it is not hard to imagine that Ford can produce vehicles with no intrusions in passenger/cargo space. Ford’s production model is different and requires some learning. Ford is in that learning process as we speak.

The only indication that fits John’s own criteria is the requirement of greater than 5000 units per year. Clearly Ford does not intend to beat that in year one, for all the reasons covered above. However, if acceptance and feedback on those early units is good, and demand is there, every indication from Ford is that they would be just as happy to put electric drive trains in the Focus as they would be to put gas engines in there.

Finally I submit exhibit A:


Come on John everyone knows CEOs don't kiss compliance cars.