Raboy and his wife with Ford Ranger EV
Leasing an EV should be easy, but in David Raboy's case it wasn't. Although it ended happily enough with Dave and his wife taking delivery of their used Ford Ranger EV, it took persistence and perseverance on his part to get the deal done.

How I Leased My Ford Ranger EV

A brief, personal account of my two month effort to drive an EV

By David Raboy

It all began innocuously enough. I finally decided I wanted an electric car. I had recently made the decision to put solar panels on my house and the prospect of having zero energy costs, including zero costs for charging my vehicle, was enticing. (This is looking even smarter as gasoline prices keep heading towards $2.00 a gallon here in California.)

Now, all I had to do was find an electric vehicle...

If you go to many EV web sites and the California Air Resource board sites, it certainly looks promising. They imply that you have your choice of GM's EV1, the Honda EV-Plus, the Ford Electric Ranger or the Nissan Altra. Unfortunately, this isn't quite true. In fact the chances of the average consumer getting an EV is nearly zero. This is because, technically there are no electric vehicles available from the major manufacturers. (Yes, you can obtain a Solectria or Corbin Sparrow.)

Still, I tried.

I got in touch with the people from both Toyota and Honda in Southern California that run the alternative vehicle programs. Each told me that neither the RAV4 EV nor the Honda EV-Plus are in production, though in Toyota's case they had some RAV4's but these are only available to fleets. Some of Honda's used Ev-plus' may be available, but not yet. Still, I begged, I pleaded and I waited. Nothing. At the time, I wasn't even interested in the Ford Ranger pickup since I wanted something I could haul 4 people in.

Gradually, I really started thinking about what I would use the EV for and commuting to work 25 miles was the biggest draw. Ford states on their web site that the Ranger EV is available for lease, which can't be said for any other major manufacturer. So I decided that this would be the vehicle for me. Thus began a two month-long journey into the bowels of Ford Motor Company bureaucracy and my own struggle with personal frustration.

After calling a local dealer about the Ranger EV, they put me in touch with Ray Roy at Senator Ford in Sacramento since they have dealt with the Ranger EV. I contacted him and interestingly enough he told me that new Ranger's were not available but that he was receiving some used ones.

One of the reasons I was interested in the Ranger was the Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery some of them had. I found out the new ones are only lead acid, but one of the used ones he had was NiMH, so I said okay, I'd take it.

If only it had been so easy.

Ray told me he couldn't lease the vehicle to me because Ford Credit had to change the title and other paperwork from the previous lessee, but that it should be done in a week or so, hopefully.

The first couple weeks came and went with calls from me every few days checking in. (Ray, if your reading this, thanks for all your hard work and putting up with all my phone calls.) At this point, I started getting a little frustrated. I couldn't understand why this process was taking so long. Finally I decided to take things into my own hands. Over the next couple weeks I started calling everyone I could think of that could help push things along.

I contacted the California Air Resources Board, spoke to the person who runs the EV program and told her of my plight. She was very surprised and told me she would be calling her contacts at the Ford Headquarters. I also got a touch with the PR person in Michigan who handles the Alternative Fuel program and informed her I had contacted CARB and they and I would like to know why Ford was dragging their feet on this. I even contacted the Sacramento Bee and spoke with the automotive writer who said he check into things.

Well, this did get a response. Ray got multiple calls from Ford folks, I am sure asking about this issue. Yet, internally at Ford headquarters nothing was still moving. I even received a call from a manager in Southern California who assured me that he would move things along. Another couple weeks went by with yet another call to CARB and still nothing. At this point, Ray Roy has now obtained 5 other used Ranger EVs and couldn't lease them to anyone. He was literally running out of room on the lot.

Finally after 5 weeks, I got a hold of the telephone number for the managers of the Th!nk and alternative fueled vehicles in Michigan.

The person I spoke with was friendly and helpful and actually began to pull things together for me. Still another week went by with nothing appearing to happen. I left messages with all parties involved, which seemed to do little good.

Finally just a couple weeks ago, at this writing, I find out that Ray Roy has left Senator Ford and has moved to a different dealership. Tim, the fleet sales manager, took over what Ray was working on. Tim was fantastic in light of coming in after the fact.

I told him the long story and he got everything together for me. He called Ford Credit and everything was nearly ready to roll, except he needed some clarification on the documents. He was assured that the documents would arrive on Friday. Friday came and went, but the documents didn't. Tim left several messages with Ford Credit.

Monday came and went. Nada, nothing, zip, no documents.

Tim was obviously frustrated now too and I decide to get involved again. I contact Ford Credit in Pleasanton and found out the person we had been dealing with left on vacation for a week and half! I spoke with the manager there and explained the long process we had gone through. Here again he was incredibly helpful and finally got Tim the answers he needed.

So now, after two months effort, I am supposed pick up my truck this weekend.

Let me conclude by saying that I believe the problems listed above are more due to the structure of a giant corporation, than Ford trying to not sell electric vehicles. The Ford people I was in contact with were nothing short of super friendly, helpful and gave me excellent customer service.

It's just there are so many levels of tasks needing to be done by several different departments that created this problem. Basically a huge bureaucracy doesn't move swiftly. Although I must say, the limited resources given to the EV program might speak for it self. I think if Ford wants to continue to be a leader, they need to figure out how all departments can more easily communicate with each other.

Finally, by way of a commentary, it appears that there are only one or two people who manage this whole thing for Ford. It also appears they are completely swamped, which is why I think - - in part - - this deal took what seemed like forever to put together.

From my perspective, at least, it seems that Ford isn't putting as much effort into this area as they could or should. After my experiences, I wonder how they heck they going to handle the postal EV's now being put into service here in California, and then in just a short time, their fuel cell vehicles, especially if their EV program are so under staffed and under funded?

And one more thing. Ford is so big that it appears to me that the one hand has no idea what the other is doing, proverbially speaking. You would think that by now the auto manufacturers would have utilized their billions in profits over the last few years to improve their internal communication.

End of commentary.

Times Article Viewed: 12568
Published: 06-May-2001


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