Ford Motor Co. will invest £1 billion over the next six years on U.K. research and development to improve the fuel efficiency of its vehicles.
“We are talking about a suite of technologies,” Lewis Booth, Ford's European executive vice president, said in an interview today in London. “The real test for us is to continually lower the CO2 emissions from our vehicles.” Ford, the first U.S. automaker to sell gasoline-electric vehicles, said last month it would no longer pursue a goal of expanding hybrid production 10-fold by 2010 and will build more cars and trucks that run on alternative fuels such as ethanol. A Ford Focus capable of 70 miles per gallon and reduced carbon dioxide emissions is planned. Ford says it may increase the number of engineers it employs in the UK from the current figure of 9,500. Ford is talking about a suite of technologies, which will include hybrid cars, but it will include continued improvements in diesel engines as some substantial and significant improvements in petrol engines, weight reduction techniques, and also some micro-hybrids. The company plans to double the number of ethanol and other biofuel vehicles produced in the U.S. by 2010. Chief Executive Officer William Clay Ford Jr., said last month in an e-mailed message to employees, echoing a vow he and CEOs of General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler made to members of the U.S. Congress. Ford can build 250,000 of the so-called flexible-fuel vehicles annually. The money will be invested in three major technology centers in Britain, said Booth. That is really a rebalancing of the research and development money. The centers are located in Dunton, Whitley and Gaydon, England. Ford employs 35,000 people in the UK, including engineering operations in Coventry, Dunton in Essex and Gaydon in Warwickshire. Ford said on June 30 that its Volvo Car division, part of the Premier Automotive Group, which Booth runs, would invest $1.39 billion in environmental technology as the company prepares to offer hybrid and alternative fuel-powered engines. The investment will involve Ford's other brands including Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. BBC News correspondent Sumant Bhatia says the investment can be seen as a vote of confidence in the UK's technical ability at a time when manufacturers are finding it tough to make cost-effective products in the country. (Bloomberg, BBC News)
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