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Ford's Electric Car...Built on the SUV Line

It's a sign of the times. Ford's new Focus-based electric vehicle (EV), will be built in a Wayne, Michigan factory that once built nothing but SUVs--and supplied half of Ford's worldwide profits.

The Focus itself was designed in Europe and will debut in 2011. It's a world car, destined to sell two million units around the globe. The EV version, with lithium-ion batteries, is being developed in partnership with Magna International and will appear that same year.

Ford is investing $550 million in what was once known as the Michigan Truck Plant. For nostalgia buffs, the 140-acre, 2.8-million-square foot site opened in 1957, when it made station wagon bodies. It later produced the Ford Bronco, Ford F-Series, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.

Ford is also retooling Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1 in Ohio ($350 million spent) to produce a very green product line, specifically the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engines to be offered in the Ford Flex, Ford Taurus SHO, Lincoln MKS and Lincoln MKT crossover. The plant also has a history, producing more than 35 million engines, including the famous 351 Cleveland, the 302 and 5.0 liter V-8s.

Dan Kapp, Ford's director for powertrain research and advanced engineering, says the 3.5-liter EcoBoost "does what the 5.4-liter V-8 does today." He said EcoBoost will reach the 1.3 million-unit level by 2013, when it will be available on 95 percent of Ford nameplates.

The battery Focus is just one part of a multi-pronged electric strategy that includes a Transit Connect commercial vehicle next year, and a "next generation" hybrid and plug-in hybrid in 2012.

According to Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, "We're changing from a company focused mainly on trucks and SUVs to a company with a balanced product lineup that includes even more high-quality, fuel-efficient small cars, hybrids and all-electric vehicles. As customers move to more fuel-efficient vehicles, we'll be there with more of the products they really want."

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