Ford EcoBoost pitch: Not V-8, but still great

Automotive News reports on Ford's challenges in selling its new direct injection engine.

Automotive News

DETROIT--Mike Crowley will be battling history as he tries to sell Ford's new EcoBoost engine.

His job: persuade consumers to pay extra for an optional engine that's no bigger than the standard engine.

Yes, EcoBoost engines, which go on sale starting this spring on the Lincoln MKS, will be more powerful than the standard engines. And they will have sophisticated features such as direct fuel injection and twin turbochargers.

But they won't be V-8s, the auto industry's symbol of power and prestige--and the traditional selling point to persuade many buyers to pay extra for engines on vehicles such as the Ford Mustang, F-series pickups, and SUVs.

The option price has not been announced. EcoBoost will be available on 90 percent of Ford Motor Co.'s lineup in five years.

New consumer attitudes?

Crowley, Ford's marketing manager for cars and crossovers, says he was more worried about marketing EcoBoost in 2006, when Ford committed to the strategy, than he is now. The reason: last summer's gasoline price spike helped change consumers' attitudes and sparked a run on smaller engines.

"Once fuel prices spiked over $4 a gallon last year, people opened their eyes and started looking at alternatives to the traditional paradigm of 'If I want power, I have to go for a V-8,'" he says.

The 2009 MKS is a good example of the change EcoBoost will bring to Ford vehicles. Lincoln's luxury flagship comes standard with a 3.7-liter V-6 rated at 273 hp. The optional EcoBoosted engine will be a 3.5-liter V-6. But thanks to two turbochargers and the direct fuel-injection system, horsepower from the smaller V-6 will be 355--about the same as a 4.6-liter V-8.

Except for pickups and big SUVs, Ford will not offer a V-8 option in vehicles available with EcoBoost engines. Crowley acknowledges that some buyers will reject a smaller engine--no matter what Ford does to promote EcoBoost.

"The Mustang customer is looking for a V-8," he says. "That's a traditional power train for them. I don't think that group is ready today for an EcoBoost power train. They may in the future, but today I think it is all about V-8 horsepower."

Crowley says he will push EcoBoost's advanced features.

"It will be a challenge," he says. "Although the technology has been around for a while, we are really introducing a new brand into the marketplace with EcoBoost. Our message to the marketplace will be that EcoBoost is a smart solution to deliver the fuel economy that you demand and the performance that you need."

Ford plans to offer the engine on 90 percent of its nameplates by 2014 and wants to sell as many as 750,000 EcoBoost-equipped vehicles worldwide by that same year.

By the end of the year, EcoBoost engines also will be available on the Ford Flex crossover and the new Taurus SHO sedan. Ford plans to launch an F-150 pickup with an EcoBoost V-6 late next year.

After that comes a four-cylinder application that uses one turbocharger. Ford won't say which vehicle will have it, but contenders are the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, or Transit Connect small van.

Fuel economy

Ford, Crowley says, will compare EcoBoost with bigger engines from competitors and stress fuel economy.

"The passing performance and acceleration is outstanding," he says. "We know where we beat the competition. I think we'll show that digitally and in print, but always with the message of fuel economy. We can get as good or better as competitors' V-8s."

Ford is not saying how much the EcoBoost option will cost. A supplier source says a pair of turbochargers adds at least $500 in equipment costs.

Ford will package EcoBoost with all-wheel drive only, which will add to the price.

Still, Ford plans to make a profit on the option once volume increases and costs come down, says Barb Samardzich, Ford's vice president of power-train engineering.

(Source: Automotive News)

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