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Greater LA Auto Show

LOS ANGELES – Smaller engines with turbochargers and direct injection are the cornerstone of Ford Motor Co.’s “blueprint for sustainability,” President and CEO Alan Mulally says in the keynote speech kicking off media days at the auto show here.

The first application of such technology, designed to blend V8-like performance with the fuel economy of smaller-displacement engines, will be found on the upcoming Lincoln MKS flagship sedan slated to go on sale next year as an ’09 model.

The DI-turbocharging technology will come to the MKS within a year after launch, Ford officials say.

While Ford does not disclose its official name for the new DI-turbo technology grouping, it was billed as TwinForce when it was featured on the engine used in the auto maker’s MKR concept car exhibited in January at the Detroit auto show. The MKR is the concept forerunner of the MKS bowing here.

“We have to continue to leverage existing technologies such as turbocharging and direct injection,” Mulally says, noting the traditional internal combustion engine can be made much more efficient.

The new DI-turbo mills are expected to deliver fuel savings between 10%-20% without compromising performance. Further details about the technology will be revealed at Detroit’s upcoming North American International Auto Show in January, Ford says.

Another step in Ford’s blueprint is reducing vehicle weight, with mid- and long-term targets aimed at reductions of 250-750 lbs. (113-340 kg) per vehicle, Ford says.

“Substantial vehicle-weight reductions will enable us to use smaller displacement engines that provide secondary efficiencies, such as lighter chassis and suspension components,” Mulally says. “They, in turn, lower vehicle weight even further.

“The best part? We can do this for millions of customers in high-quality products they want and value, without compromising their expectations of Ford vehicles’ safety, quality, interior room or performance.”

Mulally also notes the importance of hybrid-electric vehicles, biofuels and hydrogen fuel cells.

While most auto makers, including Ford, have experimental vehicles employing each of these advanced technologies, Mulally says the key will be whether the industry can learn how to produce these advanced systems in volume and at prices consumers can afford.

“We all have demo vehicles, but they won’t make much of a difference if we don’t get volume,” he says. “The real benefit is to get the technologies across millions of vehicles. That’s where the real contribution will be.”

By 2012, all Ford vehicles will be powered by engines that are E85-compatible, Mulally says.

Clean diesels also will play a role in Ford’s future lineup, Mulally says. By the end of the decade, Ford’s large SUVs and F-Series pickup will be available with a new clean diesel engine, Ford says.

All alternative-fuel vehicles have the capability to be mated to a hybrid-electric drivetrain, which will further drive sustainability.

However, there is no getting around the fact hybrids always will cost more than vehicles that have only one powertrain.

“The key enabler is again weight” because hybrids have two powertrains, and “the cost of integration is very important,” Mulally says.

Other technologies Ford will use to achieve greater fuel savings and emission reductions include: a new generation of twin-clutch transmissions; electric power-assisted steering systems; and aerodynamic improvements.

bpope@wardsauto.com