Can Ford Stay Turbo?

There are certainly a lot of moves being made by auto manufacturers to prepare for the ever-growing, ever-tightening government regulations on fuel economy. One common move was recently met with criticism, though, that could hurt those manufacturing it.

The turbocharged engine isn’t a thing of the future, and is actually quite old, but of course applying it to modern technology in more refined ways can have its benefits. A number of modern car manufacturers, including Ford (NYSE:F) with its “EcoBoost” vehicles, have used small turbocharged engines recently to boost fuel economy while maintaining engine performance.

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Unfortunately for Ford and other automakers using this technique, Consumer Reports magazine has challenged small turbocharged engines, saying that they don’t perform as well and aren’t any more fuel efficient than regular engines.

Consumer Reports magazine has tested a wide variety of these turbocharged vehicles, including those with small turbocharged engines, and determined that such cars often “have slower acceleration and no better fuel economy than the models with bigger, conventional engines.” The magazine’s auto testing chief even contested the EPA fuel-economy estimates on the vehicles, saying the cars just didn’t match up…

Ford more or less dismissed the feedback from Consumer Reports by simply saying it didn’t know how the magazine tested and that other reports had shown high customer satisfaction. It’s bad news for Ford and other automakers to get criticism on their engine technology at a time when those technologies are increasingly important for the future.

There may be more hope for Ford in the fuel-cell technology it will be producing with Nissan, Daimler AG, and Renault. But there will be stiff competition in that area as well, as Toyota (NYSE:TM) and BMW are also working together on fuel-cell systems — not to mention the competition from alternative hybrid technologies and the possibility of poor acceptance of fuel-cells.

The environment is shifting quickly for automakers as stricter policies are put in place. The next 7 years should reveal which manufacturers can make the grade.

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