Ford believes in plug-in hybrids, GM does not
Based on recent decisions announced by the USA’s biggest OEMs, it is crystal clear that their powertrain visions differ quite profoundly. In March 2019, GM will discontinue its only remaining plug-in hybrid*, the Chevrolet Volt, and only build full-electric models. Earlier this week, arch rival Ford announced it would be electrifying all its models from the new Focus onwards – offering PHEV, HEV and BEV (all-electric) versions.
RIP Volt, long live Bolt
Europeans and Australians know the first-generation Chevy Volt as the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera and the Holden Volt, respectively. Back in 2011, it was marketed as a range-extended electric vehicle – much like the BMW i3 REX – featuring a relatively big battery and an ICE that works as a power generator.
The second-generation Volt, which was launched in 2016, never made it to the Old continent. Instead, GM decided to only ship the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt to Europe – indeed, in the shape of the promising Opel Ampera-e featuring a 64-kWh battery. With GM’s European branch now the property of PSA, the Ampera-e has resigned itself to becoming a wallflower, except in EV-ready markets like Norway and the Netherlands.
With sales peaking at 25,000 in the US in 2016 but falling to some 20,000 units in 2018, GM reckons there is no backing for plug-in hybrids. The company intends to focus all its resources on the all-electric part of the plug-in segment. Production output of the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt increased by 20% in the last quarter of 2018 to keep up with an ever-stronger demand, both domestic and international, said GM.
“Hybrids are just countermeasures to an ICE. You can’t spend money to force the customer to carry around extra stuff they may not need”, said Mark Reuss, GM’s President, at the company’s investor conference (source: Autonews.com). “Or, you can spend your money on getting the real answer, which is providing the customer a zero emissions, sustainable, affordable solution”.
GM announced last week that Cadillac will be at the vanguard of the company’s move towards an all-electric future, revealing pictures of what is to become its premium subsidiary's first-ever EV.
Electrified Fords in all shapes and sizes
Meanwhile, Ford has announced a thorough restructuring of its European business to increase profitability and competitiveness. Contrary to GM, it still believes it can stay competitive on the Old Continent. It will focus on its profitable car lines, such as the EcoSport, Kuga and Edge, and discontinue the loss-making C-Max. At the same time, it will invest heavily in electrification – in all its shapes.
“Every Ford nameplate from the all-new Ford Focus onwards will include an electrified option. This includes new nameplates and new versions of existing vehicles. From Fiesta to Transit, either a mild-hybrid, full-hybrid, plug-in hybrid or full battery electric option will be offered, delivering one of the most encompassing line-ups of electrified options for European customers”, last week’s press release reads.
Interestingly, Ford also announced the reveal of a new SUV in April, along with an all-new Mustang-inspired full-electric performance utility in 2020.
*In China, GM sells a plug-in hybrid version of its locally built Buick Velite 6, the future of which is still uncertain. The model will soon be available as a full EV.
Picture: the forerunner of Cadillac's very first EV, a premium cross-over