Covering the auto industry allows you to be refreshingly celebrity free, unless you could consider people like Lee Iacocca and Bob Lutz (whose Car Guys vs. Bean Counters I'm reading) as celebrities. But I had an unusual encounter last week, when I attended a Ford party with Adrian Grenier, the star of "Entourage" (and The Devil Wears Prada, my girls tell me).
It seems that Grenier and partner Peter Glatzer recently launched the green website SHFT.com, and Ford is partnering with it. I'm not sure what that means on the ground, and we never got around to it, but it definitely meant that Adrian Grenier was in New York and doing interviews.
The reporters were spending as much time posing for photos with the (yes, very handsome) star as they were interviewing him, so it all dragged on. All I wanted to ask was what kind of car he drove, but despite my best efforts it wasn't going to happen — unless I took drastic action. And so I just sat down and started talking to Grenier, sending press aides with clipboards into paroxysms. "I had a Prius for a long time," Grenier told me. "And I'm excited that we can now buy environmentally friendly cars that were only available overseas." Does that mean he's going to a plug-in electric? "Definitely," he said.
That was it, but maybe it was enough. I didn't need to ask him what's next after "Entourage," or who he's dating now. Sherif Marakby, the head of Ford's electrification program, was there, but it was hard to talk to him there with all the air sucked out of the room. But I did hook up with him later, and he told me some of Ford's EV plans.
The Focus electric car, destined for 19 markets, will go into limited production at the end of the year, with a target of something like 5,000 to 10,000 vehicles worldwide. I know, it's a pretty cautious program, but Ford is really unclear about how many battery customers it will have.
The company is far more bullish about the C-MAX, which will be available in both hybrid and plug-in hybrid (Energi) versions sometime in mid-2012. "It's more of a multi-activity vehicle," Marakby said. "The Energi will have better fuel economy than the Volt, and more than 500 miles of range."
Ford has quietly abandoned the celebrated Escape Hybrid, which was the first American hybrid when it appeared in 2004. Why? Because it has the C-MAX coming out, as well as a second version of the Fusion hybrid, and it is essentially able to duplicate the Escape Hybrid's 32 highway-mpg in conventional Escapes with turbocharging and EcoBoost technology. And there you have it.