Turbocharged engines appear poised to stay despite mediocre sales

Ford Motor Co.'s direct-injection, turbocharged EcoBoost engine offers a boost of power without sacrificing fuel economy.

So the engine should be popular, right?

I looked up the sales figures to see whether most consumers are indeed shelling out an extra $750 to $1,700 for the EcoBoost option.

According to Edmunds.com, of all the 2010 Flex models sold through October, about 11.5 percent had the EcoBoost engine. The 2010 Taurus SHO, which offers the 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost, comprised 14.2 percent of all Taurus sales.

About 30 percent of all 2010 Lincoln MKS sedans were sold with EcoBoost, and about 46 percent of the 2010 MKT crossovers sold had EcoBoost.

It's not surprising that more premium brand buyers will pay for an upgraded engine. But does lower demand on some Ford brand models spell doom for these engines in a mainstream division?

Not necessarily.

Ford has said EcoBoost sales are meeting its expectations. And outside experts note that the Flex and Taurus EcoBoost engines are paired with all-wheel drive.

“If you live in the Sun Belt states, you have to pay extra for awd and then pay for the EcoBoost on top of that,” said Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing for Edmunds.com. “It's a double whammy.”

Pairing the engine with rear-wheel-drive or front-wheel-drive options would make the cost less prohibitive.

Going forward, Ford will offer 4-cylinder EcoBoost engines on smaller vehicles such as the Focus ST, due in 2012. Those engines won't require an awd application.

Likewise, the V-6 EcoBoost coming on the F-150 pickup will be an rwd application.

Overall, 3 percent of new vehicles sold today are equipped with turbocharged engines, Edmunds says.

But demand aside, turbocharged engines help automakers meet CAFE standards.

And with competitors such as General Motors Co. now offering a turbocharged engine on volume models such as the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan, Edmunds concludes that no matter the sales results, this engine “is here to stay.”