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Ford and Lincoln at Detroit auto show 2009

Published: 13 January 2009

The Ford group had a environmental bent to its presentation at the 2009 Detroit auto show. No change there – everyone, and most especially the Big Three, was falling over themselves to show eco cars and announce special green initiatives. The Blue Oval hopes to convince us it’s turning green with a series of new cars and strategy shifts.

Ford Taurus, Mustang GT500 and Lincoln C

The company showed off its new Ford Taurus exec (neat design, bursting with tech, hardly cutting edge though) and Mustang GT500 (driven on stage by Carroll Shelby himself, an old-school coupe slightly at odds with the other eco announcements – especially when it powerslides across the stage in a plume of smoke). But the biggest news for CAR was the launch of the Lincoln C concept, the luxury wing’s first small hatchback. Think BMW 1-series and you’re not far from the mark.

It was designed by Freeman Thomas, Ford’s big-name stylist whose credits include the VW Beetle and Audi TT on his watch at the German car maker and he also penned the concept car for the Chrysler 300C. The design is notable for its combination of pert dimensions (think the character that marks out the BMW Mini and forthcoming Audi A1) with cues from the classic ’60s Lincoln Continentals.

Lincoln C: a small-big luxury car for the US

It’s a very wide car for a hatch, one way of making a car as short as a Ford Focus comfortable enough for everyday use. It’s so wide there’s seating for two rows of three, like a Fiat Multipla. It reminds me of the stillborn Dodge Hornet, which mixed supermini length with hatchback width.

The C concept is based on the hardware of the next-gen Ford Focus and insiders at Ford suggest that the company is exploring this project seriously. With the imminent arrival of the 2010 Ford Fiesta Stateside (heralded by a giant test drive programme to put 100,000 customers behind the wheel this summer), a compact Lincoln could be just the thing for the Blue Oval.

Ford’s global electrification strategy

Ford is rapidly attempting to correct decades of reliance on big gasoline engines in the US with its new EcoBoost technology. It vows that 90% of its North American products will use the downsized EcoBoost tech by 2013, trading gas guzzlers for smaller, direct-injection turbo units mated to eco-oriented slushers.

But chairman Bill Ford announced the next step in Ford’s vision when he confirmed a new electric car programme. The Blue Oval has signed deals with partners in China and components supplier Magna which will introduce four new electric vehicles in the US within four years, including a commercial vehicle in 2010 and a small car in 2011.

The vehicle will use a lithium ion battery and Ford claimed a 100-mile range. It’s small fry though, with targets of just 5000-10,000 sales per annum at first. Then in 2012, Ford announced a plug-in hybrid.

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, motoring news magnet