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Old 05-21-2004, 09:10   #1 (permalink)
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US:First hybrid Escapes to be sold on coasts, Ford says

First hybrid Escapes to be sold on coasts, Ford says

By AMY WILSON | Automotive News

DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. will limit distribution of its hybrid-powered Ford Escape sport wagon to 15 states along the East and West coasts during 2004.

Sales begin in August, and Ford expects to deliver about 4,000 Escape Hybrids this year. Because of the low volume, Ford is allocating the gasoline-electric hybrid first to major urban centers and markets with higher demand for environmentally friendly vehicles. California leads those states.

"We want some concentration of vehicles as we ramped up in the summer months," said Marty Collins, Ford Division general marketing manager. "Those are the big markets for hybrids anyway."

Hybrids use an electric motor and a gasoline or diesel engine to power the wheels.

Distribution will become nationwide on Jan. 1.

Ford expects to produce 20,000 Escape Hybrids annually, though officials aren't promising that they will hit that number in 2005.

Toyota sold 24,627 Prius hybrids in 2003. Sales this year, boosted by a redesigned model, are up 79.8 percent during the first four months.

Ford dealers must sign up to sell hybrids, receive special sales and service training and buy about $1,500 worth of special shop equipment. Not all dealers are expected to participate.

"Allocations will be generated accordingly based upon a combination of hybrid history in that market, which is largely led by Toyota and Honda, then the small SUV segment and then the dealer's Escape history," Collins said.

Ford has not announced prices for the Escape Hybrid, but Collins says to expect a price premium of up to $3,500 over the regular Escape.

Ford marketers compare the Escape Hybrid's performance to that of the regular V-6 Escape, which has a starting price of $24,310, including the destination charge. The regular four-cylinder Escape starts at $19,855, including destination.

The base sticker of the Prius is $20,810, including destination.

A federal tax credit of $1,500 is available to hybrid buyers. Some states and municipalities offer additional tax benefits or perks such as permission to drive hybrid-powered vehicles in highway car pool lanes.

Federal fuel economy ratings aren't completed for the Escape Hybrid, but Ford officials expect a combined city-highway rating of about 34 mpg.
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