Focused on finding a sweet spot in the balance between power and economy, Ford is working new plans to expand its EcoBoost system while also improving its existing naturally aspirated engines across its entire range. Diesel engines will play a role, as will smaller petrol mills, with help from a new set of transmissions as well.

No model will be spared the updates, especially the fuel-hungry models like the Mustang and F-150 pickup. Turbocharged four-cylinder models of each are likely, reports Automotive News, although exactly when is yet unknown. In the near term, the F-150 will make do with all V8s, though after 2010 will also be offered with an EcoBoost V6 engine.

One of the V8s offered in the F-150 could be a diesel, which would also be shared with the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator. It is expected to displace 4.4L and offer better performance than the current 5.4L V8 while using 20% less fuel. An even bigger model, the 6.7L 'Scorpion' is being developed for the company's Super Duty line of trucks.

The return of a turbocharged four-cylinder to the Mustang lineup will have SVO fans waiting in anticipation. Other cars slated to get EcoBoost engines include the Focus, which could get a 1.0L EcoBoost option after 2012. The recently unveiled Fiesta is expected to get a naturally aspirated 1.4L four that returns about 40mpg for the time being, though the Euro version is available with a 1.25L engine that's capable of 47mpg in the combined cycle.

Transmission improvements include a pair of new six-speed automatics intended to boost fuel economy with their extra gear ratios. The first, a FWD unit, will debut in the 2009 Lincoln MKS and the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner crossovers. The RWD model will find its way into the 2009 F-150. Fuel economy benefits are expected to be around 4-6%.

A dual-clutch transmission won't arrive until 2011, and even then it will only be available in small and mid-sized cars, though it will be good for a 6-8% fuel economy gain, according to the company.

These developments are all part of Alan Mulally's plan to get Ford's fuel economy up in preparation for the impending CAFE regulations and to meet increasingly tough consumer expectations.

George Pipas, a Ford sales analyst, says the company was already working on these plans when the fuel crunch hit, but things have becomre more immediate with the increased fuel prices. "Our product development plan and our manufacturing plan were headed in the direction that the consumer is taking us now. What's different is the speed with which they're taking us there. It is so stunning."

Many of the technologies and techniques now being discussed were previewed on Ford's widely applauded Explorer America concept (pictured), shown at the Detroit Motors Show this year.