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Ford's Electric-Car Gamble

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2010/11/20/fords-electric-car-gamble.aspx

John Rosevear
November 20, 2010

Ford (NYSE: F  ) released some details about the launch of its upcoming Focus Electric the other day, and for better or worse, the Blue Oval is taking a somewhat tentative approach to joining the electric-car maybe-revolution.

Ford says that the Focus Electric, an all-electric version of the brand-spankin'-new Focus compact, won't debut until late 2011, nearly a year after Nissan's Leaf makes its appearance on these shores. And even then, sales of the electrified Ford will be limited to several urban markets.

For a company that has pushed forward so aggressively in recent years, one that strives to be seen as an environmentally aware innovator, late 2011 seems a bit late to the party. Is it wise for Ford to wait?

Fashionably late
The list of automakers preparing to launch electric vehicles in the United States has grown quite a bit recently. While the Leaf and General Motors' (NYSE: GM  ) not-exactly-a-hybrid Chevy Volt will start shipping momentarily, suddenly there are quite a few more on the way:

  • Chrysler parent Fiat is bringing an all-electric version of its 500 here, but not until 2012.
  • Mitsubishi will start rolling out a small electric commuter car in the United States sometime late next year.
  • Honda (NYSE: HMC  ) , long seen as an electric-car skeptic, has finally announced that it will produce an electrified version of the popular Fit, to arrive here in 2012.
  • Toyota (NYSE: TM  ) will launch an electric version of its RAV4 SUV, the first fruit of its partnership with Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA