Hoping to meet tougher government fuel efficiency rules and build on its growing momentum in the slumping U.S. auto market, Ford Motor Co. unveiled a global plan to boost fuel efficiency across its entire fleet of vehicles.
The investment in new technologies to improve fuel economy comes as the company tries to distinguish itself from General Motors and Chrysler, and to capitalize on the problems of its two American competitors, which only recently emerged from bankruptcy thanks to taxpayer dollars and government involvement.
At the company's test drive facility on Tuesday, Ford showed reporters its 2010 lineup, describing it as the "freshest" in history.
Ford CEO Allan Mullaly called the auto maker's progress reshaping its business during the tough start of the year for the auto companies "phenomenal."
"We're so pleased to have a product line, every one of them best in class, and to have consumers responding to them the way they are," Mullaly told ABC News. "It's pretty fabulous."
Ford is building battery-electric vehicles, next-generation hybrids and plug-in hybrids that will soon hit showrooms. In doing so, the auto maker is playing catchup with U.S. rival GM, which has been dabbling with electric and hybrid developments since the EV1 was introduced in 1996.
One of the new technologies Ford is most excited about is its EcoBoost engine program.
The engine, which will be placed in vehicles across Ford's fleet, uses turbo and direct injection technology to deliver what Ford says is "V-8 performance with V-6 fuel efficiency" making it 20 percent more fuel efficient than a comparable engine while producing 15 percent fewer emissions.
Ford also says it will offer a four-cylinder EcoBoost engine next year.
Several vehicles in the company's 2010 lineup will offer the new EcoBoost. The auto maker wants to improve fleet fuel economy by 35 percent by 2015.
Industry analysts say the new technology could shake up the market because it is an inventive way to make larger cars more environmentally friendly.
Auto analyst John Casesa called the EcoBoost "a practical way to improve fuel economy at a reasonable cost." He said it could add about $700 per car to install these technologies as opposed to the $3,000 to $4,000 additional cost for hybrids.
Ford's improvement in the market comes in part because of the company's delicate effort to try to distinguish itself from its government-owned competitors, said Aaron Bragman of IHS Global Insight.
"Ford is really taking advantage of the fact that a lot of American buyers and a lot of American car intenders are shying away from Chrysler and GM," Bragman said.
"The stigma of bankruptcy has not been as damaging as it could have been, but it's still affecting people's perceptions of each auto maker," he said. "The fact that Ford hasn't taken any government money in terms of a bailout, hasn't gone through bankruptcy, they appear stronger than the others."
It's not just that Ford has had the good fortune of avoiding bankruptcy, the auto maker thinks its product line is much improved because they've been focused on quality for several years now.
"Ford is in a very different place than our competitors. Through the worst of times we kept investing," Mullaly said.
For example, a recent J.D. Power quality survey found that the quality of Ford vehicles has improved. But still, challenges remain for the 106-year old company.