Ford pursues police plug-in, and brings Team Edison to Detroit, but disappoints elsewhere

Ford, the ever-growing leader in the police vehicle segment, announced a new plug-in hybrid police vehicle targeted at non-pursuit roles. As reported by the Detroit Free Press, the 2019 Special Service Plug-In Hybrid Sedan has a 21-mile battery-only range, coupled with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gas engine for extended range. This differs from the pursuit-rated, traditional hybrid that Ford released to police departments earlier this year, expanding the automaker’s electrification efforts in an important market segment.  Unfortunately, this new plug-in hybrid will not be built in Michigan, but rather at Ford’s plant in Hermosillo, Mexico.

In other, disappointing Ford news, the company announced that it has ceased manufacturing of its C-Max Energi plug-in and plans to discontinue the C-Max hybrid model by mid-2018. As reported by Green Car Reports, the 2013 C-Max was intended to compete with the Toyota Prius, but sold dismally in comparison and suffered multiple reductions in energy efficiency and range ratings by EPA. Production of the Fusion Energi and Hybrid models will continue, for now.

The disappointing news does not stop there, however.  The company also announced that a new fully-electric model originally slated for 2019 which was to be built at its Michigan Flat Rock assembly plant will now move to an existing plant in Cuautitlan, Mexico starting in 2020.  

The good news was supposed to be that Ford will now focus its Flat Rock production on a new autonomous vehicle platform, but sadly, has decided to make that vehicle a hybrid, saying that hybrid technology makes better business sense in order to keep the cars on the road longer without the need for re-charging.  Ford says it plans to focus on a range of services outside of ride-hailing, which has been a focus for competitor GM. However, outside of claims that fully-electric battery vehicles can’t sustain constant commercial use, Ford did not explain which isolating mechanisms would keep a Bolt EV from performing the same functions, especially as battery technology improves and businesses develop fast-charging strategies for their electric fleets. The decision may have more to do with the fact that Ford is lagging behind in both the EV and AV space.

This excerpt from Automotive News illustrates the situation:

GM has announced plans to test its autonomous technology by deploying self-driving Bolts in New York next year and has already been running them in Michigan, Arizona, and California.

Ford, meanwhile, plans to verify its business model with multiple unnamed partners in a yet-to-be-named test city next year.

Thankfully, there is one piece of good news coming from the company. Ford plans to relocate over 220 employees to a facility in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. The facility, dubbed The Factory, will house Ford’s electrification and automation business and strategy teams. Explaining the move, Sherif Marakby, Ford’s Vice President for Autonomous Vehicles and Electrification said “As a byproduct of living and working in a bustling city neighborhood, employees will develop an intimate knowledge of the opportunities and challenges that come with getting around in an urban environment. Being able to identify problems and generate solutions will be a process that will inform our development as a result.” You can read more of Marakby’s comments here.