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Ford to Build First Three-Cylinder Engine for Small Cars

Ford Motor Co., the second-largest U.S. automaker, will build a three-cylinder engine for the first time as it shrinks powertrains to improve fuel efficiency.

The automaker’s smallest engine ever will be used in global car lines such as Fiesta and Focus, and will have power output equal to or better than Ford’s four-cylinder engines, Derrick Kuzak vice president of global product development, said today at a briefing in Dearborn, Michigan, where Ford is based.

“Customers are not really counting the number of cylinders or the displacement anymore,” Joe Bakaj, vice president of powertrain engineering, told reporters. Ford has achieved fuel-economy improvement of as much as 20 percent by adding direct-injection technology that feeds precise amounts of gas to cylinders in smaller engines. Ford is targeting similar gains with this engine, he said.

Regulators in the U.S., where Ford is the second-largest automaker by vehicle sales, are developing rules that may require average fuel economy by company of as much as 62 mpg by 2025 up from 27 mpg for 2011 models. Ford last year started offering two different six-cylinder engines in its F-150 pickup, part of the top-selling vehicle line in the U.S., after two model years without offering the smaller engines.

Daimler AG’s Smart Fortwo is the only car selling in the U.S. with a three-cylinder engine, said Paul Harrison, a Ford spokesman.

Turbocharger Suppliers

Ford hasn’t identified which auto-parts supplier will provide turbochargers for the three-cylinder engine, Harrison said.

Honeywell International Inc. supplies turbochargers for the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT crossovers and for the Taurus SHO and Lincoln MKS sedans, said Mike Stoller, a Honeywell spokesman. BorgWarner Inc. supplies turbochargers for F-150 pickups, Explorer sport-utility vehicle and Focus. Robert Bosch GmbH and Continental AG also make the units.

Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally has emphasized fuel economy as he overhauled Ford’s lineup since arriving from Boeing Co. in 2006. Ford said today it will be the biggest maker of hybrid transmissions by spring 2012 after it begins output in a factory near Detroit later this year.

The hybrid transmission and a separate eight-speed automatic transmission announced today were developed by and will be manufactured by Ford, Kuzak said today. The new eight-speed transmission will replace one designed by Aisin Seiki Co., and will improve fuel economy by as much as 6 miles per gallon.

Models Unspecified

Ford didn’t identify the models that will use the hybrid transmission. Ford showed a Focus Electric compact car, a C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid and a C-Max Hybrid gas-electric wagon at the Detroit auto show in January.

The C-Max models are two of the five vehicles using electric power that Ford said in January it will bring to North America during the next two years. The Transit Connect Electric commercial van began production at the end of last year, and the Focus Electric will be introduced in late 2011.

Electric and hybrid vehicles may account for as much as 25 percent of Ford sales by 2020, the company has said.

Ford fell 5 cents to $14.18 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have declined 16 percent this year.

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