LONDON -- Ford Motor Co. has ended European production of the full-electric version of its Focus as it shifts its strategy for low emission vehicles to hybrid delivery vans.
Ford began production of the Focus Electric at its plant in Saarlouis, Germany, in 2013, alongside internal combustion engine versions of the compact model.
"Volumes are not strong enough. We will revisit when the market matures," Graham Hoare, Ford's head of global vehicle evaluation, told journalists on the sidelines of the Connected Car conference held by UK industry association SMMT earlier this month.
Ford sold just 61 Focus Electric models in Europe last year, down from 70 in 2015, according to market analysts JATO Dynamics.
Ford now imports the Focus Electric into some European markets from the U.S.
Last year the car was given a bigger 33.5 Kwh battery pack to increase its range on a single charge to 140 miles, up from 99 miles. The Focus Electric costs 34,900 euros ($37,000) in Germany before incentives.
Ford has previously said that sales of full electric vehicles were low in Europe because few customers see them as a practical choice. Ford has been reluctant to discount the model to boost sales, as other manufacturers of electric vehicles have done.
Ford has said it will launch an all-new full-electric SUV with an estimated 300-mile range by 2020, one of 13 new global electrified vehicles the company plans within the next five years.
Hybrid van potential
Instead of full-electric vehicles, Ford sees more growth in hybrid powertrains that run on internal combustion engines, assisted by electric motors.
Ford will trial a gasoline-electric version of its Transit Custom van London later this year ahead of production in its Transit plant in Turkey starting in 2019.
The company will target urban delivery fleets in anticipation of stricter restrictions on diesel commercial vehicles in cities. "We feel this is somewhat inevitable," Hoare said, citing London's move to restrict sales of new London taxis to zero-emission capable vehicles from the beginning of next year.
Hybrids are a better bet than full-electric vehicles for van fleets, Hoare said. "In theory the economics can be a lot more attractive," he said.
Automakers are testing the market for zero or low emissions commercial vehicles. Nissan currently sells the e-NV200 electric van in Europe while the Geely-owned London Taxi Company will launch a plug-in hybrid van in the UK at the end of 2018.
Ford has a limited electrified lineup in Europe. It builds the Mondeo gasoline hybrid in Valencia, Spain.
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