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Gasoline-electric SUV uses many of same parts

January 6, 2004

BY JOCELYN PARKER
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

Ford's Escape hybrid sport-utility vehicle, slated for production this summer, is expected to be profitable despite the higher cost of producing the technology, a Ford Motor Co. executive said Monday.

"This vehicle on a whole will not lose money," said Mary Ann Wright, Ford's chief engineer for the Escape hybrid. "One of the benefits of using the base Escape is that very few parts had to be unique versus the gas Escape. The only thing unique is the powertrain component."

Hybrid vehicles combine electric motors with gasoline engines, which improves fuel economy.

Many auto experts say carmakers have sold hybrids at a loss because of high production costs. Not only does it cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the technology, the automakers aren't selling enough hybrids to spread the costs out. Even with automakers taking on some of the costs of the vehicles, hybrids cost consumers an extra $3,000 to $7,000, experts say.

Wright wouldn't disclose specific pricing plans for the Escape, but she said many buyers won't hesitate to spend the extra money. "They are willing to pay the premium for the technology and the fuel-economy benefit."
 
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