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Ford Accelerates its Hybrids

Ford is accelerating its development of full hybrid-electric vehicles. Although the company has announced no additional models to those already targeted for deployment as hybrids, the time to production has been compressed for some.

  • The previously announced Mercury Mariner Hybrid will go onsale this year—12 months ahead of the prior schedule.

  • A Ford Fusion hybrid and a Mercury Milan Hybrid are targeted for 2008.

  • A test fleet of Mazda Tribute Hybrids will be on the road this year and in full production in two years.

This will give Ford five hybrid models on the road in the next three years.

In addition, Ford continues its work with hydrogen internal combustion engines (H2ICE), announcing the State of Florida as the first customer for the E450 H2ICE shuttle buses (earlier post). The State is buying eight of the hydrogen vehicles. Ford is also in discussions with Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) about the bus.

My great-grandfather’s vision was to provide affordable transportation for the world. I want to expand that vision for the 21st century and provide transportation that is affordable in every sense of the word—socially and environmentally, as well as economically. That means vehicles that are safe, clean and energy efficient.

—Ford Motor Company Chairman and CEO Bill Ford

Ford first announced the Mercury Mariner Hybrid in April 2004. Similar to the Ford Escape, the Mercury Mariner is a compact SUV, first introduced in 2004.

The Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids are based on a common midsize sedan architecture (CD3). Ford had already indicated that there would be a hybrid version of the Fusion following the Mariner hybrid.

The Mazda Tribute SUV (earlier post) is also based on the Escape.

Combined with the Mercury Meta One diesel-electric hybrid prototype unveiled at NAIAS this year (earlier post), Ford is rolling out an aggressive hybrid portfolio, given that some of the hybrids are essentially the same vehicle but under a different brand.

It’s a good business move—Ford can leverage its hybrid work and its work with other sustainable powertrain technologies into a “green” market position against Toyota and Honda. Accordingly, Ford is increasingly hammering on the following marketing theme:

Ford is the only automaker doing serious work on all four [environmental] fuel technologies, which include hybrid-electric vehicles, clean diesels, hydrogen ICE vehicles and fuel cell vehicles.

To be able to move up its production timelines, Ford clearly has had a breakthrough in terms of its component supplies. Last year, Ford executives had indicated that constrained supplies, especially of the batteries, had limited production of the Escape hybrid. Sounds like they solved their problem. If so, that’s good news.


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