Location, location, location. If you want to know why The Ford Store Morgan Hill sold more Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrids than any other Ford dealership in the country through November, just look out the store's window.
Outside is the East Dunne Avenue entrance ramp that takes visitors from the bedroom community of Morgan Hill onto the busy U.S. 101 freeway, California's congested north-south artery. From that entrance, residents who work for technology companies start their morning commute northward to Silicon Valley. It's a 25-mile drive to San Jose; 33 miles to Cupertino, home of Apple; and 43 miles to Palo Alto.
Tim Paulus, the owner of the store, has been able to use his location as a strategic asset to lure longtime import buyers to Ford's electrified vehicle offerings and other compact vehicles. The result has been a transformation of the dealership from the showroom all the way to the used-car lot.
The northbound lanes of the 101 are typically choked with traffic every morning. But customers who bought a Fusion Energi, C-Max Energi or Focus Electric are permitted to drive in the far-left high-occupancy-vehicle lane of the 101 even if they're driving alone. That lane starts just one exit north of Paulus' dealership.
That plug-in socket on the left front fender of a vehicle means a customer can breeze past the stationary freeway traffic on the way to busy Silicon Valley tech hubs. The HOV lane is not open to regular gasoline-electric hybrids such as the Fusion Hybrid or C-Max Hybrid with a single occupant. "By driving an Energi product, they get to be in the HOV lane. It cuts down their travel time dramatically," says Paulus, 61.
"In the morning, the right three lanes of freeway are just sitting there; they're not moving," he says, while the HOV lane is moving swiftly. "Customers report it has saved them 45 minutes on their morning commute and 45 minutes on the evening commute."
That's one reason why falling gasoline prices made no appreciable dent in Paulus' sales of Ford plug-ins through November. September was a particularly big month. Of the 61 Fusions the dealership sold, 38 were Energis. The Fusion Energi accounted for 69 percent of The Ford Store Morgan Hill's Fusion sales in November. By comparison, Ford sold just 5,298 Fusion Energis nationally through November, or about 2 percent of U.S. Fusion volume.