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Ford expects record month in hybrid sales
High gas prices boost April figures



When Ford Motor Co. reports today how many cars and trucks it sold in April, the Dearborn-based automaker is expected to post its best-ever sales month for hybrids -- thanks, in part, to rising gas prices.

Auto-industry experts say rising gas prices last month probably dampened overall auto sales, including those at Ford, but they seem to have given a boost to some fuel-efficient models like hybrids.

Ford sells gas-electric versions of the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner. The small SUVs get about 35 miles per gallon in the city, making them about 80% more efficient than a regular, gasoline-powered V-6 Escape.

April sales of Ford hybrid vehicles are expected to be up more than 50% compared with April 2005, before the Mariner hybrid went on sale, according to preliminary sales results Ford released on Monday. That would represent a 74% increase from March.

Ford said it sold nearly 2,800 hybrids for the year through April, bringing the automaker one small step closer to meeting its goal of selling 250,000 hybrids a year by 2010.

Aside from rising gas prices, Ford also credits the boost in hybrid sales to government incentives on hybrids and increasing consumer awareness of fuel-efficient vehicles, which Ford has been featuring in corporate advertisements since October and in a marketing campaign with Kermit the Frog since February.

The vehicles also had help from a new discount program. On April 4, after a pilot program in Washington, D.C., and California, Ford introduced no-interest financing for up to 60 months on the Escape and Mariner hybrids, which are priced between $26,900 and $29,225.

"We had such a positive, strong reaction to that," Mark Kaufman, Ford's SUV marketing manager, said. "It essentially equalized out the two versions of the Escape. ... Both the Escape and Escape hybrid had a good sales month for the month of April."

Despite the sales increase, Ford still has plenty of hybrid Escapes and Mariners -- about 3,900 -- left in stock.

7,859 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
Ford says hybrid vehicle sales rose 50 percent in April


DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. said on Monday that U.S. sales of its hybrid vehicles rose 50 percent to nearly 2,800 last month, boosted by aggressive incentives.

Preliminary numbers indicate Ford's hybrid sales were up 75 percent compared with March, Ford spokesman Monte Doran said.

Ford is expected to post an overall decline in April sales on weak demand for its traditional SUVs. Automakers are expected to release monthly U.S. sales results on Tuesday, May 2.

Ford began offering interest-free loans for up to 60 months to consumers nationwide in April on its Escape hybrid and Mariner hybrid SUVs.

In addition to rebates, Ford is also spending on advertising campaigns, featuring Kermit the Frog, that tout the company's commitment to hybrids.

"Our sales record is the product of an integrated marketing campaign to raise awareness for Ford's hybrid vehicles," Barry Redler, Ford's SUV group marketing manager, said in a statement.

Federal and state tax benefits, which in some states can total as much as $5,925, also fueled demand, Ford said.

Building and selling more hybrids is a major part of Ford's turnaround strategy, even though there are signs the hybrid market is cooling off.

The automaker is far behind leader Toyota Motor Corp. in hybrid sales in the United States, but is planning to boost production of the fuel-saving vehicles 10-fold to 250,000 by the end of the decade.
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