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Old 08-18-2005, 06:30   #1 (permalink)
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US:Ford product chief says building more hybrid vehicles is 'the right thing to do'

Ford product chief says building more hybrid vehicles is 'the right thing to do'

JAMES B. TREECE | Automotive News

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Ford Motor Co. is committed to hybrid vehicles, says Phil Martens.

Martens, Ford Motor Co.'s group vice president for product creation, also endorsed combining hybrids with other advanced powertrain technologies and said Ford would use hybrids to boost fuel economy rather than performance.

"Hybrids generate terrific interest in the marketplace worldwide. Building hybrids also meets our internal mandate for sustainability," he said this month at an industry conference here. "Building hybrids is the right thing to do."

The Ford Fusion hybrid, which is scheduled to arrive in 2008, will be a "second-generation" hybrid, Martens said.

In the near term, he said, "we'd like a hybrid powerpack system we could use in multiple vehicles around the world with Ford brands."

Martens said Ford's planned hybrids would focus on improving fuel economy rather than boosting performance. "We think that's why people in general are buying hybrids," he said. "We don't have plans to do performance hybrids per se."

Martens said many people want a mid-sized or large sedan "that gets more than 40 mpg."

He predicted "an exploratory convergence of technologies" over the next five to seven years. This could combine, say, a diesel-electric hybrid with a turbocharger. With such a combination, Martens said, "you're approaching what a fuel cell does at a fraction of the cost."

Alternatively, direct-injection gasoline engines, used in hybrids with turbochargers, could provide "similar fuel economy, performance and emissions as diesels," he said. "But you can do it at lower cost."

Developing hybrids also changes Ford's business practices, Martens said.

"You have to do things differently," he said. "Software becomes a paramount measure for success. You have to do product development in a different cadence.

"You have to work with suppliers more closely than ever before. That is a tremendous opportunity to change the relationship."

Ford wants to work with "two or three long-term suppliers" to develop the technology base, he said.

Ford employees like working on hybrid technology, Martens said. "People want to be part of the hybrid team."

But the shortage of qualified engineers capable of developing hybrids brings other problems.

"There's a lot of headhunting going on," Martens said. "It's as bad as I've ever seen it."
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