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Ford is in the process of making big changes to its overall strategy, and its first all-electric car, the Focus Electric, helps show how the company is evolving.
The company’s new direction offers “the power of choice” to consumers by producing gas-only, electric-only, and hybrid models of all of its cars and trucks, with the first all-electric model coming from the popular Focus line.
This strategy closely mirrors what Samsung is doing with its mobile devices: If you have the ability to make every possible combination, you theoretically create the best chance of connecting with consumers of all tastes.
Today, I was able to the test drive the Focus Electric at a Ford event in New York, where I live. (Don’t tell Ford, but this was the first time I’ve ever driven in Manhattan!) I don’t have a car in New York, but as a son of the Midwest, I know how important cars and trucks are to the vast majority of U.S. consumers.
With recent spikes in the price of gas, more people than ever are taking interest in hybrid and electric vehicles. In particular, the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf have earned many headlines for breaking new ground. Now Ford will take its stab at the market with the Focus Electric.
On the outside, the Focus Electric looks quite a bit like any other Focus. It’s not a remarkable look; if it drove by me on the street, I wouldn’t turn my head. But when driving the car and comparing it to gas-powered vehicles, it feels quite a bit different.
The most noticeable difference was the silence. The engine is almost impossible to hear, meaning music, talk radio, or outside noise was easier to process. Sadly, the included speakers didn’t sound particularly good. Even with bass and treble pumped up, the music sounded pretty flat.
When it comes to the smoothness of the ride, the Focus Electric excelled. Not only was it smooth, but the regenerative braking made it super easy to stop with just a light tap on the brake. Every time you brake while going faster than 10 miles per hour, the car regains energy.
The Focus Electric isn’t terribly powerful and maxes out at 84 miles per hour in speed. It also isn’t suited for long trips, as one full charge will only take you about 80 miles. Funny enough, Men’s Health is testing the Focus Electric by driving it across the country, which will be challenging especially in the middle of the continent, where charging stations are rare.
Sadly, the cost of the Focus Electric ($39,200 before rebates or adjustments) is pricey. But like all new tech, the cost will steadily drop over the years. The target audience (for now) will be highly affluent consumers who already own one or two cars but want a commuting-tailored vehicle. Additionally, its audience could simply be early adopters that love future-reaching tech or hardcore green types.
The Focus Electric will be available in New York, New Jersey, and California in the next few months, and it will be in a total of 19 states by the end of 2012. A European launch is also scheduled for late 2012.
Here are some photos of the Focus Electric from today’s event:
Also, here’s a short video of my test drive in Manhattan below: