How times have changed.
For decades, automakers boasted of the horsepower and raw size of their engines. Now, Ford Motor Co. is bragging about how many of its vehicles lead their segments in - small engines.
"We have seven vehicles with the smallest engines in their segments," crowed Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, at the company's annual new-product presentation for journalists and analysts.
And Ford plans to go smaller. Ford showed off its 1.0-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine, now offered in Europe on the Focus and smaller vehicles. Ford will bring the baby engine to a U.S. small car next year. That car likely will be the Fiesta.
Ford is offering its biggest car, the Taurus, with a four-cylinder engine: a 2.0-liter EcoBoost that is EPA certified at 32 mpg highway and 22 mpg city. Ford will charge an extra $995 for the four-cylinder engine over the Taurus' base 3.5-liter V-6, which is EPA certified at 29 mpg highway and 19 mpg city. That's nearly $1,000 for two fewer cylinders and an extra 3 mpg.
Fields said Ford will offer eight vehicles that hit 40 mpg or better by the end of this year, double the number in 2011.
Ford also is tripling its electrified vehicle production capacity by 2013. It will offer six electrified models in 2013, including the Fusion and C-Max gasoline-electric hybrids; the Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi, both plug-in hybrids; the Focus Electric; and a sixth vehicle that has not been identified. But Ford has made its gasoline EcoBoost engine brand, rather than electrification, the centerpiece of its push to change its fuel-economy image, which for years was shaped by its gasoline-thirsty SUVs and large pickups. The company believes customers will be willing to pay a premium for better mileage.
Said David Sullivan, analyst for AutoPacific: "So far, Ford has been very successful marketing EcoBoost. They're the first ones to put a brand name on it. Ford has taken a path of giving up displacement for fuel economy. That was a gamble they made and so far it has paid off."
But Ford's success could vary by segment, he says. Customers may balk at buying a large sedan with a four-cylinder engine, for example.
The Chrysler 300, equipped with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine and an eight-speed transmission, gets an EPA highway rating of 31 mpg, only 1 mpg fewer than the Taurus, and 19 mpg in city driving, 3 mpg fewer than the Taurus. But the big Chrysler cranks out 292 hp, 50 more than the Taurus. With its turbocharged engine, the Taurus wins the torque battle with 270 pounds-feet at 3,000 rpm, compared with the normally aspirated Chrysler's 260 pounds-feet at 4,800 rpm.
Ford's EcoBoost strategy has enjoyed the greatest success in the company's biggest-selling vehicle: the F-150 pickup. F-150 pickups equipped with the 3.5-liter, 365-hp, twin-turbocharged EcoBoost engine account for about 42 percent of Ford's F-150 retail sales so far this year, well above Ford's initial expectations in part because of high fuel-economy and torque numbers. F-150 4x4 pickups with that engine are rated at 21 mpg highway and 15 mpg city and put out 420 pounds-feet of torque at 2,500 rpm.
Copyright 2012 Crain Communications. All Rights Reserved.
(Originally published July 2, 2012, in Automotive News.)