Is Ford Planning a Plug-In Hybrid Focus?

Ford's Focus is one of the world's best-selling cars, but it's due for a refresh. That refresh is likely to be unveiled soon -- and it may include a new plug-in hybrid. Photo credit: Ford Motor Co.

Toyota  (NYSE: TM  ) may be the global hybrid-car king, but Ford  (NYSE: F  ) has done pretty well for itself. The Blue Oval sold over 86,000 hybrids here in the U.S. last year -- many to folks who were trading in Toyotas.

Ford's Fusion Hybrid accounted for the lion's share of those sales, with over 37,000 sold in 2013. But the plug-in version, the Fusion Energi, has sold in much smaller numbers: Just 6,089 were sold last year. 

Ford's plug-in technology gets good reviews, but the Fusion Energi is much more expensive than the regular Fusion Hybrid. That probably accounts for its relatively low sales numbers. But it begs a question: Would a more affordable Ford plug-in hybrid sell better?

We may find out soon. As Fool contributor John Rosevear explains in this short video, Ford is set to unveil a refreshed version of the Focus in March -- and at least one report says that a plug-in hybrid version of the popular compact may be on its way to market.

A transcript of the video is below.

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John Rosevear:
Hey Fools, it's John Rosevear. So some reports, or at least some rumors, are starting to emerge about the upcoming refresh for Ford's Focus, and that refresh could include the launch of the first-ever Focus hybrid.

The Focus has been one of the world's best-selling cars over the last couple of years, but it has been out for a while now, and clearly it's time for a bit of a freshening. Automakers typically do what is known as a "mid cycle refresh" at some point in the life of a model. It's not a complete redesign from scratch, more of a facelift, generally the car gets some new styling details, and it may get other changes or improvements, sometimes a new engine, sometimes an overhaul to the interior. So what's in store for the Focus?

Well, a report surfaced this week in the British magazine Auto Express that had some spy shots of a heavily camouflaged Focus that frankly didn't show much in the way of detail on the outside, but there's a shot of the dash that shows a cleaned up layout. If you've been in a current Focus you know that the center stack, that's the piece of the dash in the middle, in the current Focus it's a huge mass of little black buttons, it looks as though that's being replaced with a more conventional-looking layout with updated climate controls.

On the outside, the Focus is expected to get a version of the trapezoidal grill that we've seen on the Fusion and some other Fords, and some minor changes to the sheet metal up front, the hood and the front fenders, the magazine said. The report also cited a source inside Ford saying that a 1.5-liter diesel engine would be offered in some markets, along with a 1.5-liter ecoboost, gasoline turbo engine, that will be aimed at emerging markets where engines that are 1.5 liters or smaller get tax breaks.

But here's the really interesting bit: Auto Express says that a plug-in hybrid version of the Focus is in the works. It'll use the same basic system that Ford offers on the plug-in version of the C-Max, the C-Max Energi, that's "energy" with an "i" on the end. A plug in hybrid is a hybrid that can be charged up by plugging it in, the idea is that it then has a short range just running on the batteries, if you have a short commute you might not need to use gas for it. When it's fully charged, the C-Max Energi has a range of 21 miles before the gas engine kicks in.

If this report is on target and we do see a plug-in hybrid Focus, I would expect its electric only range to be similar or a bit better than the current C-Max Energi. Either way we'll know before long, the report says that Ford will present the refreshed Focus lineup at the Geneva Motor Show in March. We'll keep you posted. Thanks for watching, and Fool on.

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John Rosevear

John Rosevear is the Fool's Senior Auto Specialist. John has been writing about the auto business and investing for over 20 years, and for The Motley Fool since 2007.

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