In the early 2000s, Ford Motor Co. was a hotbed of alternative fuel activity, and John McCallan, owner of Pearson Ford in San Diego, jumped in wholeheartedly. He had the first Th!nk electric car dealership in the country. In 2003, McCallan opened Pearson Fuels. It had a showroom for Ford's other alternative fuel vehicles, an alternative fuel service station and an education center to teach school kids about alternative fuels.
"Pearson is an entrepreneur. Those people are ahead of the curve," says Phil Lambert, executive director of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, a nonprofit organization promoting the use of ethanol as fuel.
Maybe too far ahead. In January 2003, Ford sold Th!nk. In 1999, Ford had purchased electric vehicle company Pivco Industries of Norway and renamed it Th!nk. It produced two electric models, a two-seat car and a small vehicle similar to a golf cart.
Ford also canceled plans to develop numerous other alternative fuel vehicles shortly after Pearson Fuels opened.
The row of pumps selling alternative fuels sat forlornly next to an empty showroom building.
"Part of being innovative is you have to be ready to adjust and change depending on the circumstance," says McCallan, 54.
So he and his business partner, Mike Lewis, tried selling Ford accessories in the building, says Lewis, who now runs Pearson Fuels. But Ford's sales were shrinking, and business wasn't good.
In 2007, McCallan and Lewis acquired a Kia franchise. It didn't do well, so they let it expire at the end of 2007.
All the while, people were calling to ask about opening an alternative fuel station.