March 14, 2005

Escape Hybrid profits “in the future”, Ford says

Detroit, Michigan – Ford Motor Company president Jim Padilla says the company doesn’t expect its Escape gasoline-electric hybrid to be profitable for at least a couple of years. “The costs are pretty high,” he said. “The car has a complicated electronic control system. I don’t think there’s a chance with the first generation of product (to be profitable).”

Ford began making the Escape hybrid last August. Along with its Mercury twin Mariner, which will go on sale in the U.S. later this year, Ford expects to sell 20,000 hybrid SUVs. Ford CEO Bill Ford said that as part of renewed efforts to make cleaner vehicles, he moved the Mariner’s debut up to this year from 2006, and said hybrid versions of the new Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans will debut in 2008.

The Escape hybrid comes on the heels of Toyota’s Prius, which was introduced in Japan in 1997. Toyota said the car has been profitable since 2001, although that definition excludes research and development investments of as much as US$2 billion made a decade ago to develop hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles. Honda entered the hybrid market in 1999 with the Insight and says that its hybrids, which also include gasoline-electric versions of the Civic and Accord, have become profitable.

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