DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. is rolling out a multistep plan to boost fuel efficiency over the next 10 years.
Ford's improvements, mainly in its powertrains, include:
-- Adding a turbocharged three-cylinder 1.0-liter direct-injection EcoBoost engine for its subcompact and compact cars.
-- Adding an eight-speed automatic transmission in about 2013.
-- Offering stop-start technology next year on several models.
-- Assembling a hybrid transmission starting late this year developed by its engineers.
-- Cutting 300 or more pounds from vehicles.
The weight loss could improve fuel economy by as much as 7 percent, Ford says.
"Leadership in fuel economy starts with powertrain technology," says Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of global product development.
At the 2010 Beijing auto show, Ford showed a small concept engine in the Ford Start concept vehicle. That engine becomes Ford's three-cylinder production engine with EcoBoost. It will be Ford's smallest engine.
"Some people would say that engine's more suitable to a motorcycle than a passenger vehicle," says Joe Bakaj, Ford's vice president of global powertrain engineering. "But people aren't counting their cylinders anymore. They just want to know it performs."
Ford did not release horsepower and torque ratings. Bakaj says the engine's power will be comparable to a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine.
The engine will achieve 15 to 20 percent better fuel economy than a naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine, he says, in part by integrating the exhaust manifold with the cylinder head. That shaves off two pounds and gives a more efficient fuel-to-air ratio.
Ford says the engine will be available in North America in the "near term."
Ford plans to add an eight-speed automatic transmission to much of its lineup by about 2013, Kuzak says. The transmission will help Ford achieve a 2 to 6 percent gain in fuel economy, depending on vehicle mass and driving habits.
Such a move helps Ford keep pace with premium carmakers, such as BMW AG, and Detroit rival Chrysler, which will offer eight speeds in some models. Ford is not saying which vehicles will get the transmission.
Ford also will offer a stop-start feature on some vehicles in 2012. The technology will provide a 2 to 10 percent increase in fuel economy, depending on model.
Ford also said it has developed a hybrid transmission that will go into production late this year. The new transmission replaces a unit made in Japan by Aisin Seiki Co. used in vehicles such as the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. The transmission will be assembled at Ford's Van Dyke transmission plant in suburban Detroit.
Adds Kuzak: "By this time next year, Ford will be the largest producer of hybrid powertrains in North America."