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USA: Ford narrows sales pitch for Focus Electric

Ford’s new Focus Electric, with its nearly $40,000 sticker price, is in the midst of a quiet rollout focused on California, New York and New Jersey, then 19 targeted metropolitan areas before it goes nationwide. But don’t expect to hear a lot about it unless you’re a plug-in fan.

“The marketing of the Focus Electric is to people who buy electric vehicles, not to you and me,” Jim Farley, Ford head of global marketing, said in an interview. “We’re focused on the people who buy them.”

The Focus Electric went on sale in December. Ford sold only a couple dozen in the first quarter. That is a stark contrast to the way General Motors launched the Chevrolet Volt, which it promoted for four years before it went on sale.

Paul Venn, president of client services with Team Detroit, Ford’s advertising agency, said customers in a major electric vehicle market are aware of the car.

Automakers have geared up to make EV and plug-in hybrids more quickly than consumers have bought them. LMC Automotive, an industry consulting firm, forecasts electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids will account for less than 1% of U.S. sales through 2017.

GM hoped to sell 10,000 Volts last year but came up about 2,300 short and has reduced production in early 2012. The electric Nissan Leaf sold about 9,700 last year. But Nissan’s plant in Smyrna, Tenn., will be able to make 150,000 Leafs annually by the end of 2012.


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