Ford plans on hybrid growth ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: Ford plans on hybrid growth

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ford plans on hybrid growth

Ford is hoping to get in on the hybrid sales growth by upping the number of hybrids available. Although there are only 11 hybrids on the road today, there may be 52 available by 2012. JD Powers is predicting 780,000 hybrids will be sold in 2012.

Read all about Ford's hybrid plans: Press Release follows:

Ford Readies to Ramp up Hybrid Program
By: Michael J. Ureel | Ford Communications Network

DEARBORN, April 24, 2006 - As Ford Motor Company ramps up its hybrid program, the Ford Escape Hybrid continues to be a leader among stiff competition in a burgeoning U.S. hybrid market.

While hybrid sales are still relatively small, volumes are anticipated to grow by 268 percent between 2005 and 2012, according to the most recent update of the J.D. Power and Associates Automotive Forecasting Services Hybrid-Electric Vehicle Outlook. Hybrid vehicle sales are expected to grow from approximately 212,000 vehicles in 2005 to 780,000 by 2012.

"Future growth will be the result of more vehicle manufacturers entering the hybrid-electric market and a greater number of hybrid models," said Anthony Pratt, senior manager of global powertrain forecasting at J.D. Power and Associates, in a news release. "There are currently only 11 hybrid models available in the U.S. market, and by 2012 that number could increase to 52 models."

Ford Motor Company is set to add to its own hybrid fleet. The Mazda Tribute Hybrid is expected out later this year, and by 2008/2009, Ford will have five hybrids on the road, including the Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner, Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Mazda Tribute. By 2010, Ford plans to increase its global hybrid production to approximately 250,000 hybrid units annually, offering a hybrid power option in up to half of its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury nameplates.

"The Fusion/Milan will be our second generation of hybrid system, which will take all the lessons learned from the Escape/Marineer hybrid and build upon them," said Tom Watson, Manager, Propulsion System Implementation, Ford Research & Advanced Engineering. "We will provide a system that is even more capable for performance and fuel economy, than what we have in the marketplace now.

And by late 2009, early 2010, Ford will be introducing its third generation of hybrid system on products like the new Ford Edge CUV. The third-generation system, said Watson, will be V6-capable, and the lead applications will be V6 engine hybrid systems. Ford will also be working more closely with Volvo, Land Rover and Mazda to deliver hybrid vehicles globally, he said.

To meet future hybrid program demands, Ford is in the process of strengthening its hybrid team and building its supply base.

"There's going to be some really key things to meet the commitments we have to our hybrid plans," said Nancy Gioia, director, Sustainable Mobility Technology and Hybrid Programs. "One is we have to have the right people and skills in place - and we have a tremendous, strong team we've built over the last year with over 300 talented people. And the other part is we have to have product that is out there and meets customer needs."

Ford is also revamping its hybrid supply base, moving away from one dependent on Toyota-based suppliers.

"As we grow and our volumes grow, we need to make sure our North American supply stream is there to grow with us," said Gioia. "And we've made good progress in developing, and continuing to develop, a supply community that will be able to be there with us as we expand."

So far, Ford's efforts in hybrid technology has earned some accolades from the automotive press, like the recent rave review of the Escape Hybrid from Road & Track Magazine.

"The Escape is the most non-hybrid-like hybrid I've driven," said Jim Hall, Road & Track online editor, in the article in the May issue. "In its propulsion, brake feel and handling, Ford's fuel-efficient entry performs just like a 'regular SUV.' This is an excellent choice for those who want a hybrid without the funky driving dynamics."

Bert Swift, the magazine's associate art director said: "The Ford Escape Hybrid certainly provides an improvement in fuel economy and less hunting of rpm on climbing hills, while being near-transparent around town."

The magazine tested Ford, Toyota and Honda hybrids against the same non-hybrid models in their fleet. The Ford Escape Hybrid had the best fuel economy and performance against the non-hybrid Escape-making it a better value.

Last year, the Escape Hybrid earned the coveted 2005 North American Truck of the Year award, and was named the 2006 Top SUV under $30,000 by AAA. The Mercury Mariner Hybrid was named the first-ever "2006 Green Car of the Year" by Green Car Journal.

"The Road & Track report is yet another indication of the performance, quality and value of our hybrids," said Gioia. "Consumers are more and more coming to see that they can own an environmentally friendly hybrid without compromising on anything."

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