SHANGHAI -- Ford Motor Co. is tiptoeing into China's electric-car market with a consumer vehicle demonstration campaign, but the automaker isn't ready to announce when -- or if -- these vehicles might go on sale here.
At the Shanghai auto show, Ford displayed the electric Ford Focus, C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid and Fusion hybrid.
Nancy Gioia, Ford's director of global electrification, said the company will show a trio of cars -- an electric vehicle, a plug-in hybrid and a "conventional" hybrid -- to consumers in cities throughout China.
But the company is not ready to set a deadline for the introduction of EVs, plug-ins or hybrids in China, Gioia said.
"We are attacking the market with education," she said.
EV owners need to plan their routines for the day and week, to make sure their trips fall within the vehicle's daily range. The most likely EV purchasers would be experienced motorists who previously owned a vehicle, she said.
If Ford does decide to enter China's EV market, it could make money on fairly small volumes, Gioia said. Ford's EV models are derived from high-volume models and can be built on the same assembly lines as conventional versions of those vehicles.
But unlike the United States or Japan, Chinese consumers have not demonstrated much demand for hybrid-powered vehicles such as the Toyota Prius or Ford Escape.
And public demand for the first generation of EVs has been underwhelming.
For example, BYD Co. has been unable to generate demand for its electric e6 car. The company has sold a few dozen EVs to a taxi company in Shenzhen, its hometown.
China's central government is taking steps to encourage the expansion of the EV industry by offering generous sales subsidies. In five cities, consumers who buy an EV can receive up to 60,000 yuan ($9,177), while purchasers of plug-in hybrids can receive up to $7,648.
Some municipalities have matched central government subsidies with their own incentives. But few public charging stations have been built, and regulators have yet to establish a standard for the type of recharging plug to be used.
So Ford has adopted a go-slow approach.
Said Gioia: "Clearly, if you look at sales of electrified vehicles in China to date, they have been very small." c