Editor's note: An earlier version of this story, which also appears on Page 34 of this week's print edition of Automotive News, contained the wrong title for Magna founder Frank Stronach in 2007. He was chairman of Magna International Inc.'s board at that time.
DETROIT -- Ford engineer Sherif Marakby was impressed with Magna's technology and verve when the supplier's executives stopped by with a retrofitted 2008 Ford Focus.
Ford had not solicited the prototype, which Magna had converted from gasoline power to electric drive. And Ford at the time had only a vague notion that Magna had created an electric-car business from scratch.
Magna's electric Focus "was quite impressive," Marakby, director of electrification programs, recalled last week.
From that tryout in 2008, Ford Motor Co. and Magna International Inc. decided to collaborate on an electric vehicle, the 2012 Focus Electric, which is scheduled to go on sale this fall.
The car has helped vault Magna E-Car Systems, partly spun off last year from parent Magna, to the front rank of companies supplying full electric powertrains and other electric parts to the industry.
From a handful of engineers moonlighting on the project in 2008, Magna E-Car Systems today has grown to nearly 700 employees at technical centers and plants in Detroit; Aurora, Ontario; and Graz, Austria.