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Old 04-07-2004, 03:32   #1 (permalink)
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U.S.:Mercury Mariner SUV joins Escape and midsize sedan

Ford adds 3rd hybrid to product line

By Eric Mayne / The Detroit News



Ford Motor Co. is adding a third hybrid gas-electric powered vehicle to its product lineup — the Mercury Mariner SUV — in an effort to capitalize on the rising popularity of more environmentally friendly vehicles.

The plans to build a gasoline-electric version of the Mariner by 2006 will be announced today at the New York Auto Show. The Mariner will join the Ford Escape SUV and a future midsize sedan in the automaker’s hybrid program.

Ford has been criticized for lagging behind Japan’s Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Co.p. in the race to introduce hybrid vehicles.

To speed the proliferation of fuel-saving hybrid systems through its product lineup, Ford has established a dedicated group of engineers and scientists to work on the technology.

“We’re starting to get our heads around where we want to take the technology next,” said Mary Ann Wright, Ford’s director of sustainable mobility and hybrid vehicle programs.

Like the popular hybrid Toyota Prius, the Escape and Mariner will be equipped with an electric motor that piggybacks on a gasoline engine. They will be able to be powered by the electric motor alone, or in combination with the gasoline engine, for improved fuel economy and lower emissions.

Ford expects to build about 20,000 Escape Hybrids annually that will offer about 37 miles per gallon city driving. Pricing has not been announced.
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