Ford Goes Green

Just days before Ford hosted its 2009 Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury product day at its proving grounds, the company revealed its product plans for 2010 and beyond, including the importation of its European Fiesta and Focus, a redesigned Ford Taurus, a refreshed Fusion/Milan/MKS, hybrid versions the Fusion/Milan, a new Mustang, and a Lincoln version of the Flex, among others.

While it’s clear that, product-wise, lots of changes are coming from Ford, it’s also clear that most of those changes are still several months, if not a year or more, away. In addition, the most important 2009 model Fords—the new Flex crossover, Lincoln MKS, and Escape/Mariner SUVs—are already in dealer showrooms. And the company’s most important vehicle, the Ford F-150, has been delayed until October so that dealers can clear their lots of 2008 models.

So, with all that information already released, Ford chose to immerse journalists in the company’s “Drive One communications effort” during they daylong event in Dearborn. One part of that four-pronged “communications effort” is Drive Green, which emphasizes Ford’s efforts to enhance fuel economy and reduce emissions and its commitment to reducing the environmental impact of its vehicles.

“We are committed to being the best or among the best in fuel economy with every new Ford product in its segment,” said Derrick Kuzak, group vice-president of Ford’s Global Product Development.

To make that happen, powertrain upgrades in the form of V-6 and I-4 EcoBoost (direct-injection turbo) engines mated to six-speed transmissions will be available across the Ford lineup. The first application of the V-6 EcoBoost will be in the Lincoln MKS in the spring of 2009, followed a month later by the Flex. Four-cylinder EcoBoost engines will arrive in 2010. By the end of 2012, EcoBoost engines will be available on more than 80 percent of Ford vehicles on sale in North America.

Besides EcoBoost, Ford is ramping up its hybrid production, planning to double the number of hybrid vehicle offerings next year. The Escape/Mariner Hybrids are being touted by Ford as “the most fuel-efficient SUVs on the planet.” The front-wheel-drive Hybrid is rated at 34/31 mpg, and the 4WD model at 29/27 mpg. The 2010 Fusion/Milan hybrids will begin production in late 2009 or early 2010, and the company expects fuel economy to better that of the Toyota Camry Hybrid.

In addition to reducing the company’s carbon footprint by improving fuel economy, Ford is using environmentally friendly materials to build vehicles. The company has patented a process in which they use soybeans to produce seat cushion foam, and a special fabric made from PLA (polylactic acid) and derived from corn can be used to cover seats and headrests. The company is also exploring ways that other natural materials, from coconut husks to; hemp, could be used to reinforce plastic parts. Ford estimated that “if these materials were used in place of petroleum-based plastics, CO2 emissions would be reduced by approximately 100 kg (220 pounds) per vehicle.”

With the price of gas still hovering around $4 per gallon (despite a recent drop) and dire warnings of global warming, fuel economy and conservation are uppermost in the minds of many car buyers. It can only help Ford to emphasize their Drive Green initiative, which promises to lure environmentally conscious car buyers to its products.