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Ford Developing Hybrid, Diesel Versions of Expedition SUV

1 July 2006

Auto Week reports that Ford plans to offer a more fuel-efficient version of its full-size SUV, the Expedition, that could be powered by either a new European V-8 diesel engine or a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain.

Ford is angling to have a higher-mileage, full-size SUV that will compete with the hybrid full-size SUVs arriving from GM next year. Such a vehicle could be ready for production around 2010.

GM’s hybrid SUVs are expected to deliver a 25% gain in fuel economy over current models, pushing fuel economy into the mid-20s mpg.

“We have hybrids and diesels under development,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president of product development for the Americas.

Kuzak declined to give a time frame for the effort or confirm plans for a new, fuel-efficient Expedition.

The diesel appears to be a bigger version of the new 3.6-liter engine offered in Land Rovers sold in Europe. The diesel engine would be relatively quick and inexpensive for Ford to install compared to the hybrid. Ford has also described a different type of hybrid powertrain for a Land Rover concept, the e-Terrain. (Earlier post.)

Year-to-date US sales of the Expedition have dropped 24.1% through May compared with the same period in 2005. Sales in May 2006 dropped 33% from May 2005.

Kuzak said Ford is looking at all options. “Right now we are looking at a variety of alternatives in terms of a (transmission) for our hybrids, that’s in-house and working with external suppliers.”

Kuzak would not say when either powertrain would be ready for production in the Expedition. But he acknowledged Ford needs such a vehicle.

“Right now as we look at what is required for competitiveness in fuel economy, for customers’ unmet needs for fuel economy and for environmental considerations, we need to look at a variety of technologies—hybrids, diesel engines, better gasoline engines, better electrical systems to minimize parasitic losses.

“All of those technologies need to be pursued, developed and understood for our cars and trucks.”

July 1, 2006 in Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (32) | TrackBack (0)

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The first automakers to develop a 40mpg full-size SUV will make a gold mine...

The US auto makers just don't get the idea of reducing the weight and size of their cars to increase mileage. They think the answer to selling cars is increasing their ad budget, not R&D and a quality product.

That is a very interesting thing to say, considering that the entire message of this article was that Ford was looking into a number of different ways to improve SUV fuel economy. That, to me, sounds like some sort of R&D or engineering effort, not an advertising effort.

The fact is, Ford and GM are plenty capable of making small, fuel efficient, reasonably reliable cars. Their European models testify to this. Large cars and SUVs, however, have tended to be very profitable for American automakers and popular among American consumers. So it is no surprise that car companies continue to turn to them in hopes of profit.

They could be wrong. The continued high price of oil may have finally changed things. At first, by creating pain in the pocketbook, it created a rational reason to economize. As time goes on, that might become (or may have already become) something of a cultural standard. Oversize vehicles may no longer be attractive or "cool" to growing segments of the community. In truth, I don't know.

On a strictly rational basis, appyling hybrid technology or other fuel saving measures to the largest vehicles first makes the most sense. The higher absolute savings stemming from the same proportional drop in fuel consumption means that the payback time is shorter on an SUV than a small car, assuming that the cost of the hybridization or whatnot scales up more slowly as the size of the car increases.

But as the sharp dropoff in SUV sales suggests, most people who had been previously buying SUVs did not truly need them enough to tighten their belts one more notch and buy them again depsite the higher costs. Though we often mock the suburban housewife who takes a three ton tank out for grocery shopping, that alone did not make it clear that SUVs were always not needed. If a family was only going to have one car, and if it regularly hauled around something huge one day in every five, it might truly need to own that SUV even though it looked ridiculous the rest of the time. But by giving up large SUVs in increasing numbers, American motorists have proved that most of them never really needed one in the first place.

Which means that they only ever bought them in the first place because of some less-than-rational reason. Maybe certain buyers were responding to the cautious concern that *maybe* they'd need one in the future, and since the price premium did not seem too bad, they would buy one right now just in case. But while the price premium on *operating* a full size SUV has shot up, the premium on *acquiring* one has always been large, so it's hard to see why people would even not think it was "that bad."

More likely, the less-than-rational reason was what we all already know about consumer car culture, which is that people choose one car over another for emotional reasons as much as practical ones. Which means that if the emotional valences of certain categories change, spending habits will follow.

The people at Ford and GM know this in abstract, but I'm not sure that they grasp, in particular, where these forces are actually pointing at the moment. If they did, they would have rushed to market a distinctive-looking hybrid model to capitalize on the "Prius effect," selling a bunch units in the process and garnering a good "halo effect" to boot. Instead, this post indicates that Ford is taking the eminently practical approach of dropping a diesel into a dinosaur. It would be great for Ford if enough people really needed dinosaurs for practical reasons, of if people were still enamored with them. But I have a sinking feeling, without really good proof to back it up, that Ford is missing the boat here on the consumer-taste issue.

NBK-Boston: "But I have a sinking feeling, without really good proof to back it up, that Ford is missing the boat here on the consumer-taste issue."

I have no proof either, but I'm absolutely convinced you're right. Ford and GM are so intent on trying to make money by selling the kinds of vehicles they want to build that they barely acknowledge consumer preference in the matter. In the case of Ford, this could stem, in part, from the financial drubbing they take on the Focus. There was just recently a sidebar in an article in BusinessWeek (perhaps another news mag?) saying that Ford loses several thousand dollars on every Focus. I wouldn't be surprised if Ford mgmt. concluded from that situation that with their legacy cost structure it's impossible for them to sell a small car at a profit.

Chrysler seems to be showing some life, with the articles recently here on GCC about adding a new mini-wagon/Scion xB kind of thing (Hornet), plus more options on some models for smaller engines. Must be that European mgmt. at Daimler.

For large SUVs and trucks, a focus on diesels than electric hybridization does. Note that Ford has also been working with EPA on hydraulic hybrids.

The Explorer electric hybrid has not been the runaway success that the Prius is, perhaps because the segment of the market that wants a hybrid also wants everyone to immediately SEE they are driving one. The Prius remains the only vehicle that is not available with a traditional drivetrain, so there is no guesswork involved: you KNOW it's a hybrid. In addition, it's a Toyota and a car, not a truck. That lends extra credibility to the focus on MPG.

By contrast, for SUV and truck drivers, fuel economy has now become important but it is not the defining characteristic. All-American masculinity is, i.e. sheer size, brute strength (=torque), engine roar, outdoor ruggedness, dependability, self-reliance (e.g. via E85) etc. Or rather, it's the association with all of the above, even if all you do is drive it in the burbs.

Ridiculous? Perhaps. But it's always important to remember that a personal vehicle is a reflection of the emotional state of its owner, more so than of any rational requirements. This is true of both sexes, though men and women tend to have different priorities.

In the US, diesels are still perceived as dirty/smelly relative to gasoline engines, but ironically, that might actually add to the masculinity of the vehicle. Hydraulic hybrids, too, would add to this blue-collar industrial grime-of-the-earth connotation in a way that high-tech electrics cannot.

Compensating for the higher emissions of a diesel, using less fuel means doing your part to reduce dependence on foreign oil. In the "red" states of the heartland, this is a far more potent argument than reducing your personal CO2 footprint is.

Note that vehicles above 6000lbs GWR are considered MDVs and subject to less stringent emissions regulations. This is what makes a diesel conceivable in the first place.

My father bought a Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins Turbo Diesel for one reason: it's high weight/towing capacity made it a very attractive tax write-off for his business. We were big-time surprised at the fuel economy of our 6400lb truck (around 20mpg, usually higher). Our Hemi we traded in usually returned 12mpg when driven like grandma on Sunday. If Ford would advertise the torque, towing capacity, and fuel economy of whatever system they put in the Expedition they will sell like crazy here in Alabama.

Can Ford revive the American love affair with 3-Ton un-needed dinosaurs with so-so diesel hybrids + a huge PR budget?

I guess that dinosaur lovers will buy all 3+ Ton of it if the adds are repeated often enough to convince them that those monsters are safer for their family and, at 40 mpg, a good product for the country and the survival of Ford and GM..

Neither statements are true, but millions would readily believe it. That's how smart we are.

They are dealing with the small car issue by building plants outside the us where those cars will be built for a profit.

Its oly the large margin cars and trucks that will be built in america and so the market will decie when ford and gm close more american plantd and can more american workers.

Yes, a diesel SUV can mimic the roar of a dominate male while demanding others to make room for it on the highway.
So this product does have instant appeal.

But If Ford does come out with diesels,
it will be "swift boated" by the competition, with rumors about the smell, noise, clogged fuel filters, oil leaks on the ground,won't start in the cold, and last but not least too unreliable with all the smog reducing systems around the diesel.
Guys, please don't respond, saying the things I said are not true. To the listening public , it does not matter: if an "expert" says its true, and mantra is repaeated enough, then it is true.
The bottom line; Diesels are dead, for mass consumption in the U.S.A..
If Ford and GM don't get serious about hybrids(only near term solution), then they will have to merge!


DaimlerChrysler would do well to make a hydraulic hybrid version of their Sprinter van. It comes in several body and cab configurations so that it could be a van, tall van, or cab/frame for a bed or body to be added on top. Several of their other pickup, van, and truck lines would do well to do so as well. They would fill the delivery (like FedEx), pickup (ie garbage), transit (bus), and service vehicle (gas, internet, customer service, etc.) markets.

Tony -

GM has been selling a 6.6L common rail direct injection diesel engine in its Sierra and Silverado trucks for several years now, with success. Obviously, the engine is well-mannered enough that other road users don't even notice.

Diesel may not appeal to US car buyers, but we're talking about full-size trucks and truck-based SUVs here. The proof is in the pudding.

I do hope they hybridize or drop a diesel in these SUVs to decrease fuel consumption. At the same time they need to completely remove pure gasoline engine options. The added premium may discourage those who don't need such a vehicle. As is mentioned above, large SUVs can be a tax write off for small businesses (I really think they ought to show a "need" for it though, but that isn't required) so the price premium doesn't affect those businesses as much. Also those using the vehicles for business tend to put more miles on their vehicles than those using it for personal purposes and will benefit more from the decreased consumption (in terms of payback on the premium).

It is funny how people think they need a large SUV for hauling "the big stuff" which happens maybe once every 6 months. I recall many instances when loading TVs or furniture into people's vehicles and their SUVs were not large enough. Seems they would have saved more money by buying a luxury sedan with all the same features of the SUV and price due to fuel savings and then they could just have the large items delivered (every store selling large items offers some form of delivery).

Rafael.

I assume you meant Escape, not Explorer hybrid.

The Escape has a wheelbase shorter than the Prius and really isn't that roomy. Consider the fact that the Prius is a midsized vehicle and gets way better gas mileage. As far as carrying stuff is concerned, I can carry just about anything an Escape can, so why bother.

The only possible advantage of an Escape is that it is 4wd. Wait until Toyota comes up with a hybrid Matrix. Then there will be zero reasons to buy an Escape.

Those who truly care about gas mileage don't do SUVs, least of all an Expedition. I don't expect people in that market would be willing to pay much more for a hybrid, even if it is sold as a security issue. If they really cared about the security issue, they wouldn't buy an Expedition in the first place. Bin Laden loves gas guzzlers. Terrorists love gas guzzlers. Those funding terrorists love gas guzzlers.

The bar has been raised. Talking about 20 mpg plus doesn't get it anymore.

I second what NBK said.

I like to think that my cojones are demonstrated by how little attention I try to draw to myself.  Well, except for hauling ass and a fully-loaded trailer up a mountain in the rain with my little 4-banger with barely a hint of clatter and a muted turbo whine.  "He's where?  I didn't hear him!  How did he do that?"

Sooner or later all those un-merchantable pickups and SUV's are going to be a sign which blares to everyone "The owner of this vehicle was an idiot".

Diesel and ethanol are coming we have the know how we just have to do it. The US can produce 30% (currently 4.5%)gas consumption without disrupting current food, feed and export demands useing only waste. Fords Meta One diesel concept was PZEV and there getting cleaner.
http://feedstockreview.ornl.gov/pdf/billion_ton_vision.pdf
http://www.epa.gov/OMS/technology/420f04019.pdf

It is really strange, that Americans, lowing to have big cargo space in their vehicles, totally forgot about hatchback. Compared to sedan, it has terrific cargo capacity, and for big items too.

Rafael:
Sorry.

In your post you explained quite clearly possible (I say possible, because I could not read mind of other people) reason why Nissan did not pushed forward hybrid technology, as Toyota did: financial problems. By the way, in car manufacturing business it happends periodically with all companies, big or small, good or bad. The reason why Nissan decided to buy Toyota technology (and add first Li battery into equation) most probably is very simple: currently it is not possible to employ the best of hybrid technology and not to infringe Toyota patents on their Synergy drive.

Reputation of Nissan in automotive and business world is so high, that one could ridicule himself by bashing it.

“…Kerkorian, a major GM shareholder, said Friday that automakers Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. are interested in purchasing a significant stake in GM and including the Detroit automaker in their alliance. Shares of GM soared $2.45, or 8.9 percent, to close at $29.89 on the New York Stock Exchange…”
American investors not quite familiar with Renault, but know very well what Nissan is. Enough to lift GM market price by 1.6 billion dollars.

To Mr. Rafael Seidl


Everybody who currently drove gasoline car would not instantly appreciate to Diesel cars, especially when they feel it's little vibration & listening the engine noise when in stationer position.

In my experience Diesel cars would gave Impression when we drive them, feel it's pulling power, middle acceleration, when climbing, stop & go driving, and for manual transmission cars you no need to change gear a s often as gasoline cars.

Since 18 years ago I experienced variety of car, from 2.0 L gasoline 12 valve with Carburettor, 2,2 L gasoline SOHC 16 valve EFI, 2,8 L gasoline DOHC VANOS 6 Cyl 24 valve (which still in my garage), 2,3 L OHV normal aspirated Diesel OHV mechanical VE ; 2,5 L OHV TurboDiesel VE mechanical ; 2,4 L SOHC normal aspirated Diesel VE (also still in my garage) ; 2,5 L TurboDiesel DOHC 16 valve Common Rail (which purchased 1 month ago) and honestly I'm very staisified with my Diesel cars, especially the new one (the 2,5 L CRD) which sounds almost as smooth as conventional gasoline engine, no smoke at all from the exhaust tip although using 500 ppm Diesel fuel with 5% Biodiesel, and this car has gasoline 2000 cc sibling, several test drive shown that the Diesel variant has more fun to drive factor than the gasoline version, especially for City driving and up to 140 km/h.

Peformance, noise & vibration of Diesel engines are very influenced by the Diesel fuel, in very near future we would have so many option for high quality Diesel fuel which has CN above 55, like from CTL, GTL, BTL, Biodiesels, NextBTL, etc.

Hybrid powertrain would become companion for any powerplant, either Diesel / gasoline, we wish in the future hybrid components would become more & more affordable.

Just a personal opinion.

You’re right, in Europe, some years ago, there was common opinion that diesels were underpowered, noisy and dirty. Most people only experienced diesel powered cars during driving lessons (schools have to manage small fleets that run for hundred thousands of miles each year). With the introduction of more modern turbo diesels, that feeling slowly started to change mainly because of the wonderful Diesels from Audi and VW. Diesels became synonymous of high performance and economy, only the aural quality was inferior. Today most cars sold in the old continent are diesels, and gassers are reserved for the low end of the market or to the very high end (you can’t buy a diesel Porsche or Ferrari, although a diesel Cayenne would be the most chosen version).

>>The Escape has a wheelbase shorter than the Prius and really isn't that roomy. Consider the fact that the Prius is a midsized vehicle and gets way better gas mileage. As far as carrying stuff is concerned, I can carry just about anything an Escape can, so why bother.

LIE ALERT. Prius has 16 cubic foot of cargo space compared to Escape's 66. And Prius is a "compact" sedan, clearly not a midsized vehicle (despite a now defunct marketing campaign).

Stop smokng the tofu.

Can't wait to see what gas prices will be by 2010.

First point: the Sprinter shows us a large vehicle can get good fuel mileage.
Second point: Why wait for a manufacturer to build that hybrid SUV? Used large SUVs are now a bargain. All the components for hybridization are available on the aftermarket so why not build your own. I see this as a business opprotunity. Vehicle remanufacturing is already a big business in Mexico. If I had any business skills I'd already be doing it.

nimmo. You're so called lie alert is distorting the facts.

You are comparing an escape with the seats down to a Prius with the seats up. Considering that the overall interior volume of the two vehicles are comparable, as a practical matter I can haul just about anything the Escape does.

This was not a marketing campaign. The EPA classifies the Prius as a midsize vehicle.

http://www.edmunds.com/new/2006/honda/insight/coupe/compact/index.html

Prius= Compact coupe. 16 cubic foot vs. 66. It isn't even close. Stop smoking your tofu in your electric Echo.

LIE LIE LIE

nimmo.

You just repeated your distortion. The first time was, perhaps, understandable. Again, can't you discern the difference between cargo space available with seats up and seats down. What part of this don't you understand?

You are also very close to violating the caveat against insults and abuse.

Edmunds doesn't determine vehicle classification; EPA does.

While you're at it, publish the differences in size between the ECHO and the Prius. What's up with your hate of the Prius?

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