Ford Builds 100,000 Hybrids ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: Ford Builds 100,000 Hybrids

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ford Builds 100,000 Hybrids

Ford built it's 100,000th hybrid at the Kansas City Assembly plant yesterday, marking a turning point for Ford and their hybrid vehicle capabilities. The plant produces the hybrid SUVs Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner, and Mazda Tribute.

With 100,000 hybrid SUVs built, Ford is ready to transition to hybrid cars, as they begin building the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrid.  Ford has been a conservative player in the hybrid arena, and it looks like they want to keep it that way.

Other Players
Toyota and Honda have raced ahead of the other car makers, producing hybrid SUVs, performance hybrids, small niche hybrids, and fuel efficient hybrids, which put them in the lead when it comes to hybrid technology.  It also put them at the biggest risk.

Nissan has refused to play along, marketing only the Altima Hybrid, which is built on Toyota Hybrid technology. They are still a year or two away from producing their own hybrid technology.

GM decided to build mild hybrids, and has paid a big price in reputation when environmentalism and gas prices shot up. They are now frantically trying to build hybrids across the spectrum, from mild to full to plug-in and extended range electric vehicles in an attempt to catch up.

Ford the Conservative
Ford has been a conservative player in the hybrid marketplace. They've stuck to the middle of the road all along. While they were one of the first to develop their own hybrid system, they have limited its use so far.  Not willing to take the risks Toyota and Honda have taken, but not willing to sit out like Nissan has.  And certainly not wanting to go along frantically the way GM has.

They put the hybrid system into the Escape, Mariner and Tribute, but limited their production. Reportedly, they've lost money on the their hybrid development so far. That's not surprising since developing their own hybrid technology was not cheap, not to mention building the production facilities. And so they limited the amount of loss they were willing to take.

And that's why they are only at 100,000 hybrids, despite being one of the first to market. Toyota has built over 1 million Prius, not to mention the other hybrids they have.  Honda produces 10,000 more hybrids a year than Ford does.

With the introduction of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrid, Ford will be doubling their production.  But it looks like they are still willing to produce only so many. This is a straight-line procession from their earlier policy. They are only going to take 'this much' risk in this arena.

Once the hybrid vehicles become profitable, i.e. costs come down because there are more of them being produced, Ford has said they will begin to make money on their hybrid venture. And once that happens, I expect they'll slowly start increasing the production numbers.

The Future of Hybrids at Ford
Ford is also looking into the plug-in hybrid technology. Once again, they are willing to spend the money to develop their own systems, but it looks like they are going to follow the same policy as they did with their hybrid electric vehicles. Slow and steady will get them there.

Press Release From Ford Follows:

- Ford's 100,000th hybrid SUV rolls off the line today at the Kansas City Assembly Plant

- The Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids - the world's first hybrid SUVs - continue to be the most fuel-efficient hybrid SUVs on the planet at 34 mpg city driving

- Ford is doubling its production of hybrid vehicles this year with the introduction of the new 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids - America's most fuel-efficient midsize sedans at 41 mpg city driving

- Ford recently launched an aggressive electrification plan to bring pure battery-electric vehicles, next-generation hybrids and a plug-in hybrid to market by 2012

CLAYCOMO, Mo., March 10 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) today celebrated the production of its 100,000th hybrid SUV and reinforced its commitment to ramping up production of hybrid vehicles this year.

Ford launched the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids five years ago and the vehicles remain the most fuel-efficient SUVs on the market. At the same time as workers at Ford's Kansas City Assembly Plant celebrated the hybrid milestone, Ford dealers are preparing to begin selling the all-new 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids, which will be America's most fuel-efficient midsize sedans.

"As we celebrate our 100,000th hybrid, America's interest in hybrid vehicles keeps growing, as does Ford's commitment to advanced powertrain technologies that deliver greater fuel economy, lower emissions and help enhance our country's energy security," said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford. "No domestic automaker has more real-world experience with hybrid vehicle technology than Ford, and it shows in the quality and fuel economy of our vehicles."

Today, the Ford Escape Hybrid SUV and Mercury Mariner Hybrid SUV deliver 34 mpg city driving, 31 mpg highway. The newest entries to Ford's hybrid lineup, the Fusion Hybrid and Milan Hybrid deliver 41 mpg city driving, 36 mpg highway, the most fuel-efficient midsize sedans on the market today.

The Kansas City Assembly Plant, which employs 4,100 people, has been the hub for Ford's hybrid SUV production since 2004 when the first Ford Escape Hybrid rolled off the line. Lean, flexible manufacturing processes and specially-trained employees at the plant allow the hybrids to be built on the same production line as conventional Escape and Mariner SUVs.

"All of us at the plant feel tremendous pride as we celebrate this important milestone," said Ken Ward, Kansas City plant manager. "We are as enthusiastic about building the 100,000th vehicle today as we were at the initial launch."

Jeff Wright, president of UAW Local 249 at the Kansas City plant also was at the plant when the first Escape Hybrid was built.

"We have a great workforce in Kansas City and they are committed to building a high-quality vehicle," he said. "It's a testament to the employees that the hybrids have performed so well on the road."

In addition to the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner Hybrids, the Kansas City Assembly Plant builds the Ford F-150 Regular Cab, Super Cab and Super Crew; the Ford Escape; the Mercury Mariner and the Mazda Tribute.

A Look Back at the Ford Escape Hybrid

In 2004, Ford introduced the world to the first hybrid SUV - the Ford Escape Hybrid - by taking a record-breaking trek through the congested streets of Manhattan, where the vehicle exceeded all expectations, driving 37 straight hours and 576 miles on a single tank of gas.

The Escape Hybrid made history again in 2005 when it became the first hybrid vehicle to be used as a taxi in the U.S. The Escape Hybrid taxis were first introduced in San Francisco, and soon after, in New York City. There are now 250 Escape Hybrids providing taxi service in San Francisco and 1,400 in New York City.

This month, a San Francisco Escape Hybrid cab fleet accumulated 300,000 miles with no major mechanical problems. It is a true demonstration of the durability and reliability of the vehicles. Compared with conventional cabs, those 300,000 "hybrid" miles translate into a savings of approximately 5,000 gallons of gas or 100,000 pounds of carbon emissions.

From the streets of New York and San Francisco to the sandy beaches of Southern California, the Ford Escape Hybrid has proven to be the green vehicle of choice for a variety of users. Currently, a fleet of 45 customized Escape Hybrids serve as rescue vehicles for the Los Angeles County Ocean Lifeguards along 72 miles of California coastline.

After almost a year of rescue patrol, Mike Frazer, chief of Lifeguard Services, Los Angeles County Fire Department, says the lifeguards' appreciation of the Escape Hybrids continues to grow, especially now in difficult economic times.

"Our fuel consumption and costs have gone down dramatically. The money we are saving on fuel has allowed us to maintain our critical front line staffing despite the economic downturn. We also are saving money on vehicle maintenance," he explained. "It is not a stretch to say that our new fleet of Ford Escape Hybrids is allowing more lifeguards to staff towers and in essence, helping us saving lives."

Green Inside and Out:

The interior of the Escape Hybrid features earth-friendly cloth seat fabric made from post-industrial materials - polyester fibers that would have ended up in landfills otherwise. The cushions also are made from a bio-based polyurethane foam derived from the oils of various plant seeds such as soybeans.

Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner Hybrids Today

Today, the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner Hybrids still are giving customers what they want - a "no-compromise" sport utility vehicle that combines the fuel economy and emissions benefits of a "full" hybrid with the go-anywhere capability, toughness and spaciousness of a small SUV.

The 2009 Escape and Mariner Hybrids offer an array of new features and technologies to strengthen their claim as America's most fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly SUVs. Both the 2009 Escape and Mariner Hybrids have been recognized with a number of awards and accolades. Kelley Blue Book's recently named the Escape Hybrid one of its "2009 Best New Family Vehicles." Other accolades include:

* "2009 Automotive Best Buys" by Consumers Digest magazine
* "Best Crossover/SUV Value Under $28,000" by
* "Greener Choices" by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)
* Ward's Automotive Group "2009 Best Engines" list for the redesigned 2.5L I-4 engine

A Look Forward to the Future

Ford recently launched the next step in the electrification of vehicles with an aggressive plan to bring pure battery-electric vehicles, next-generation hybrids and a plug-in hybrid to market by 2012. During the next four years, Ford will introduce in North America: a battery electric Transit Connect commercial van in 2010, battery electric passenger car in 2011, next-generation hybrid vehicles, and a plug-in version in 2012.

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