Ford plug-in models reaching nationwide rollout by spring
Ford says 900 dealers in all 50 states will be certified to sell its electric and plug-in hybrids.
After its record hybrid sales in January and record plug-in sales during the fourth quarter of 2012, Ford is preparing one-third of its U.S. dealers for what it hopes is an EV sales surge in 2013.
Currently, 350 dealers are certified to sell the Focus Electric and its two plug-in hybrids, the C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi. By spring, the automaker says the electric cars will be available at 900 dealers in all 50 states.
For potential customers, "certified" means a dealer must install at least two on-site charging stations, keep at least one Focus Electric and C-Max Energi available for demonstrations and train 80 percent of its sales and service staff regarding the vehicles. Dealers that aren't certified cannot sell them.
Ford has said that fourth-quarter sales of the new C-Max Hybrid, C-Max Energi and Fusion Hybrid led to a 9 percent gain in hybrid market share in the U.S., bumping the automaker’s stake in the hybrid market to 16 percent in total. While Ford points out that Toyota’s share of the U.S. hybrid market dropped 8 points in the same period, its Asian rival rules the roost at 60 percent. To date, Ford has sold 157 Focus Electric and 375 C-Max Energi models. The Fusion Energi will go on sale in the next few months, Ford said.
Like many automakers, including Nissan, Ford initially limited its electric cars to specific regions, including New York, which was the first state to sell the Focus Electric, beginning in November 2011. Ford said that with the additional certified EV dealers, its phase-in strategy will no longer be needed.
All Ford needs now is for more car buyers to make the jump from hybrids to plug-in hybrids and EVs.
Given the small market share for regular hybrids -- around 3 to 4 percent and highly concentrated on the West Coast -- that will be tough. But Ford is betting that the number of car buyers who would consider buying a plug-in hybrid will grow to 25 percent -- and will push sales in the EV market to the mainstream.
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