2013 Ford Fusion HybridEnlarge Photo
It hasn't been all sunshine and lollipops, though. Ford is currently being sued over its EcoBoost engine (which may or may not lose power during acceleration), its MyFord Touch infotainment system (which polite folks call "complex", and others call "obtuse"), and its C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid (which plaintiffs say don't come near to meeting their fuel-economy claims).
You might think that last item would have a negative effect on Ford's hybrid sales, but you'd be wrong. In fact, Ford saw record-breaking figures on hybrids last quarter, with sales up 15 percent over the first quarter of 2013, and a staggering 517 percent higher than the second quarter of 2012.
That brings Ford's U.S. market share for electrified vehicles to 16 percent, up from just four percent a year ago.
And that figure could keep climbing, as Ford says it's ramping up production capacity. By the end of 2013, the company will be able to crank out three times as many electrified vehicles as it did in 2011.
FORD & TOYOTA PART WAYS ON HYBRIDS
Curiously, the news of Ford's strong electrified vehicle sales comes at the same time as an announcement that Ford and Toyota have ended their partnership to co-develop hybrid powertrains for trucks and SUVs.
In a press release, Ford said: "After successfully completing the feasibility and development of the hybrid system project with Toyota, Ford is moving forward on its own with development of a rear-wheel-drive hybrid system for Ford pickups and SUVs. The new hybrid system – which will be available by the end of this decade – will be based on an all-new architecture to deliver the capability truck and SUV customers demand while providing greater fuel economy."
Toyota's press release, however, made no mention of new vehicles: "Toyota and Ford have completed their feasibility study for collaboration on the development of a new hybrid system for light trucks and SUVs, which was first announced in August of 2011. As a result, we have agreed to develop hybrid systems individually."
By all accounts, the breakup was friendly enough. But we have to wonder if it was, in some way, brought on by Ford's strong hybrid sales. Does Ford feel that it's gained ample authority in hybrid technology to go it alone, without the imprimatur of hybrid king Toyota?
Or was Ford perhaps forced to end the partnership due to its urgent need for hybrid powertrains for trucks and SUVs? Unlike Toyota, those vehicles make up a huge portion of Ford's product mix, and if Ford is going to meet new fuel economy goals set for 2025, it needs to start developing gas-sipping versions of its big haulers sooner rather than later.
(For another take on this development, be sure to check out our colleagues at Green Car Reports.)
Hybrids and pure electric cars still make up just a tiny fraction of Ford's sales: the company sold slightly more than 24,000 of them in the U.S. in Q2, out of 823,000 total vehicle sales.
But what's interesting is that, despite the highly publicized problems Ford may be having with meeting fuel economy expectations on hybrid vehicles, those vehicles are selling. They've caught the attention of consumers, which is perhaps the biggest hurdle a manufacturer has to overcome.
Then again, the much-maligned MyFord Touch has caught on with consumers, too, with 80 percent of new-car buyers now opting for the service. That hasn't meant they're enjoying it, though.
Will Ford's electrified vehicles delight customers and grow sales? Will the company be able to add hybrid trucks and SUVs that offer the performance buyers want and the fuel-savings Ford needs? We'll keep you posted.