Canadian Supplier Drives Lesson to Dearborn

I don’t know about anyone else, but the Ford Focus has never done much for me. In fact, it’s the kind of car that reminds me of the Saturday Night Live skit in which a hapless Will Ferrell tries to assert some authority over his disrespectful family by shouting, “I drive a Dodge Stratus!”

For this reason, Ford’s announcement in early January 2009 of an electric vehicle, based on the Ford Focus platform, went right past me. It was as though CEO Alan Mulally (a man for whom I have great respect) was doing his best Will Ferrell impression, swapping out the Stratus for the Focus.

But the story behind the story is a good one, and it testifies to the ingenuity and confidence of one company and the open-mindedness of another.

Ford had been in talks with Ontario-based auto supplier Magna International about developing an all-electric vehicle for some time when in September of 2008 Magna came to Ford’s Dearborn headquarters bearing an unexpected gift: An otherwise ho-hum Focus that, unknown to Ford, Magna had purchased off the lot and converted into an electric vehicle.

Executives at Ford were floored. Some months later came the announcement of this collaboration, an electric vehicle based on the global Focus platform.

According to a Magna press release, the electric vehicle will be a small car with single-speed transmission whose motor is powered by a battery pack with a range of 100 miles. Recharge time at 110 volts is 12 hours, and half that time at 220.

I don't know enough about the electric vehicle itself to offer much in that regard, but it wasn't the point: I like what Magna did. I'm onboard with their initiative, down with their daring, and I dig their presentation.

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