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Ford Discusses Changing Habits of Car Buyers, New Eco-Car Lineup

2012 Ford Escape -

The fuel-efficient car market does not belong solely to Japanese car manufacturers, and Ford Motor Company is working to make more green car advances, as well as offering smaller sport utility vehicles.

More than 1.8 million small utility vehicles were projected to be sold in 2011, bringing those sales back to highs unseen since 2007, the first to pass the levels set prior to the recession.

Ford Chief Sales Analyst Erich Merkle discussed the trend of motorists moving to smaller vehicles. “When you dig deeper, you find that people are moving towards utilities, but they’re moving toward small utilities en masse…they offer a really good balance between overall utility and fuel economy.” The Ford Escape became the number 1 selling utility in 2011.

Ford C-Max Energi -

Fuel efficiency is not solely a trait of compact cars, Merkle elaborated. “We’re finding that people are really responding well to better fuel economy across our entire vehicle lineup…The Ford F-Series is the best selling vehicle in America this year, and our most popular engine choice is the new Ecoboost V6… It has all of the performance and capabilities that a truck buyer is going to want, but it gives you the advantage of having the most fuel efficient pickup in the market as well.”

The company is also charging more heavily into the green car market as well over the coming months. Production on the Ford Focus Electric, a plug-in electric vehicle, began in December 2011. The Ford C-Max hybrid and the plug-in C-Max Energi, which will rival the Chevrolet Volt, will go on sale in 2012 as well.

In a comparison with the Nissan Leaf,  Merkle touts the benefits of the Ford Focus Electric. “The Focus Electric will charge in half the time as the Nissan Leaf,” Merkle said. “One of the hurdles to overcome with electric vehicles is one, the charge time; nobody really wants to wait around for hours upon hours to charge their electric vehicle…the other thing is going to be the styling of the vehicle, the way it performs and handles, it will be much different…I think people will be very pleased with the performance of the vehicle relative to other electric vehicles on the market.”

The expected range of the Focus Electric is expected to be around 100 miles, around the same as the Leaf.

Hatchback sales continue to climb as well, increasing over 17 percent. Sales of the Ford Fiesta and Focus hatchback account for almost 50 percent of the sales of traditional 4-door sedans for the company.

A clip of Erich Merkle discussing the trend toward fuel efficiency with KFYO’s Cole Shooter is below.

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Despite many car buyers moving toward smaller vehicles, the sales of full-size vans posted the biggest percentage sales gains of any vehicle. Though full-size vans only account for 2 percent of the overall market, sales jumped 19 percent. Merkle explained, saying “full-size vans really run with the economy, much like medium and heavy trucks…they’re up over 40 percent this year. What that tells us is that businesses are starting to spend again. This is all a very good sign for the economy.”

The Ford brand has made gains in market share for three consecutive years, and also began paying dividends to shareholders again, after halting the practice five years earlier.

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