Ford introduced its two C-MAX hybrid models last December, and just one year later the U.S. car maker is already nudging out Toyota for sales of electric hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. That doesn’t just mean American car buyers are eager to buy American again, it’s also further evidence that the domestic electric car market is ready to tip over into the mainstream.
Defenders of fossil fuels can yell all they want, but EVs are a lifeline for car manufacturers faced with the stark reality that young people are deserting the car market altogether in droves. In order to coax them back in, car makers have to find new ways to add value to car ownership. In the past, a heavy dose of social luster and sex appeal sufficed to mask the cost of gasoline and upkeep, but future sales will demand much more creativity and that’s where EVs fit the bill.
Ford C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi
For starters, let’s take a moment for a review of different EV types. When you’re talking about an EV hybrid generally you mean a vehicle that recharges its own battery while driving, just like a conventional car. The difference is that the battery is powerful enough to kick in when the vehicle is in idle or going at low speeds, which saves a lot of gas, which is what the C-MAX Hybrid does.
A plug-in EV hybrid lets you recharge the battery from an outlet (that would be the C-MAX Energi), which provides extra juice to save more gas. An all-electric plug-in vehicle uses no gas at all (that would be Ford’s all-electric Focus).
In Ford’s recent announcement, the numbers may seem relatively small but they are significant. According to Ford, combined sales in November for the C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid totaled 4,848 in November, compared to a total of 4,456 for Toyota’s Prius plug-in and Prius V hybrids.
Since November is only the first full month that both models have been available, it looks like the C-MAX is off to a good start.
Finding a New Home for New Car Buyers
Ford has been no slouch when it comes to positioning its EVs as the mainstream vehicle for a high-tech future. One part of this strategy was revealed last spring, when Ford won a slot for its all-electric Focus as the pace car in a NASCAR showcase.
In the latest move, Ford has won rights to have the C-MAX Hybrid and Energi named as the Official Cars of the 2013 International CES, the world’s premier consumer electronics showcase for innovative technology.
The CES showcase will enable Ford to showcase its high tech goodies including:
- SmartGauge, an instrument cluster that coaches hybrid drivers to achieve the greatest fuel efficiency;
- A route planner called EV+ that helps drivers keep the vehicle in EV mode for longer periods;
- The ability to choose between driving all-electric, in normal hybrid mode or in a battery-saving mode; saving battery pack mode for later use.
An All-of-the-Above Marketing Strategy
When you take Ford’s three tie-ins together, you get the big picture: an all-encompassing strategy that appeals to high performance (NASCAR), social responsibility (SHFT.com) and gee-whiz enthusiasm for the latest technology (CES).
The only thing that seems to missing is an appeal to the inner Scout in all of us, aka emergency preparedness. Nissan seems to be going there in its latest ads, which hint that the ability to power your home from your plug-in Nissan EV is in the near future.
Also missing from all this is sex, but hey, you can always find a way to work that in somewhere.
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