DEDICATED FORD HYBRID: Unlike the hybrid variant of its Fusion (pictured here), Ford’s new Prius rival will be the automaker’s first dedicated" hybrid when it is eventually launched in 2018. Image: Ford
DETROIT, Michigan - Ford plans to introduce a new hybrid petrol-electric car in late 2018 to compete against Toyota's best-selling Prius.
The new model will be Ford's first "dedicated" hybrid designed to be marketed exclusively as a hybrid, rather than a variation of an existing petrol model, such as the automaker's Fusion hybrid. The as-yet-unnamed vehicle will be built near Detroit, Michigan.
Ford could eventually offer several different body styles of its new hybrid, as Toyota does with its Prius.
TAKING ON THE PRIUS
There would be different versions of the car's petrol-electric drivetrain, including a more expensive plug-in that can be recharged from an electrical outlet. The new Ford hybrid is expected to arrive as a 2019 model, roughly 21 years after the introduction of the original Prius in Japan. Toyota is planning to unveil its fourth-generation Prius late in 2015.
Ford plans to build the new hybrid at its Wayne assembly plant in southeastern Michigan, at an annual rate of about 120 000 units, sources with knowledge of the company's plans told Reuters.
Some of the hybrid technology, including electric motors, controllers and batteries, will be adapted from Ford's current hybrids, although the dedicated 2018/19 model is expected to provide better fuel economy and range than current Ford models.
The new hyrbid, which carries the internal code C240, will be built on Ford's new C2 global compact architecture, which also will underpin the next-generation Focus and Escape, the sources said.
HYBRID SALES DECLINE
Ford, like other major global automakers, has been investing heavily in hybrid technology to meet increasingly stringent emissions and fuel economy standards in North America, Europe and Asia. Consumer demand for hybrids hasn't come close to meeting the industry's sales projections.
Sales of the Chevrolet Volt, General Motors' widely advertised plug-in hybrid, have been just 10 635 vehicles through the first seven months of 2014, down 9% from a year ago, despite heavy dealer discounts.
Sales of Ford's C-Max hybrid are down 29% in the first seven months, to 16 444. Sales of its Fusion hybrid are up 24%, to 31 092, but still only account for one in every six Fusions sold in the US.
Prius, which has been sold in North America since 2000, remains the leading hybrid in global markets. Its US sales in the first seven months of this year are down 11% to 127 776. In 2013, worldwide sales of the Prius topped 400 000.
Part of the success of Prius has been attributed to Toyota's efforts to build its "green" car into a branded family of different hybrid models, from the tiny Prius C hatchback to the van-like Prius V.
Chevrolet plans to introduce a redesigned, second-generation Volt with improved features and performance, as a 2016 model, the sources said.