Ford Motor has begun certifying dealers to sell the the 2012 Ford Focus Electric, the company's first all-electric vehicle. The 67 dealers are in California, New York and New Jerse -- states that Ford say accounts for the preponderance of electrified vehicle sales. The car will roll into those regions later this spring, then nationwide later this year.
Ford says the dealers must accomplish several tasks to be electric-eligible: they have to install at least two on-site charging stations, one in the customer area and one in the service area. The dealers must also have have at least one Focus Electric on hand "at all times" for demonstrations and events.
The 67 dealers also have to go through specialized training about all things electric. For the sales consultant, sales manager, service advisor and service manager jobs at each location, 80% must meet specific electric vehicle training certification requirements that cover topics including advanced knowledge of electrification powertrains.
Ford says each dealer's showroom will have point-of-purchase display materials including digital assets and window signage. The dealerships also have to reduce their carbon footprint by participating in a "Ford Go Green Dealer Onsite Facility Assessment" to identify energy- and cost-saving opportunities.
Ford is pitching the Focus Electric against Nissan's Leaf electric -- claiming, for example, that the Focus Electric will have better mileage and faster charging times. Ford says the Focus Electric will get combined highway/city mileage of 105 mpg-electric, which the company says is 6 mpg-e better than Nissan Leaf. The company says the larger on-board charger halves the charge time versus Leaf and that, because of a Microsoft-designed on-board "value charging" feature designed to help owners charge the car at the lowest utility rates, it is cheaper to charge than Nissan's car.
In addition to the Focus Electric there will be a plug-in hybrid version of the 2013 Ford Fusion called the Energi, which Ford says will get something in the neighborhood of 100 mpg-e in electric mode.
But is there yet a market for these vehicles? Nissan reported selling 2,103 Leafs this year through April, which is a little over twice what the automaker sold during the period last year. But in April, when sales across the industry were up, sales of the Leaf dropped by about 35%. Hybrid-vehicle sales are relatively small, but electric car sales are battling to get beyond novelty status. Despite historically high gasoline prices, sales of electric cars are still less than a percent of total new vehicle sales. General Motors was hoping to sell about 10,000 Volts last year, but ended up selling around 7,671. Nissan sold 9,674 Leafs last year.