Ford working on Prius rival to meet federal fuel standards

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News
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Ford Motor Co. plans to introduce a new hybrid vehicle or line of vehicles in 2018 that would compete against the Toyota Prius and help Ford meet strict federal mandated mileage standards, a forecasting firm said Thursday.

An executive at Troy-based LMC Automotive said the firm expects Ford to introduce a “Prius-like family of vehicles eventually,” beginning with a unique 2019 model-year hybrid that would be built at the Wayne assembly plant.

Jeff Schuster, LMC’s senior vice president, Americas region and global vehicle, said in an interview the new vehicle, which would go into production in 2018, would be built on the automaker’s C2 global platform, which will also be used on the next-generation Focus and Escape.

Schuster said LMC expects Ford will produce about 90,000-100,000 of the vehicles annually. No other details are known.

“Because it’s still far enough out, there’s a lot of open-ended items,” Schuster said. “This could certainly be pulled off the plans, but it’s definitely a move toward the CAFE end game that everyone’s talking about.”

Reuters first reported the hybrid vehicle Wednesday, citing unnamed sources. Ford would not confirm the plans.

“We will not speculate on future products,” Ford spokesman Aaron Miller said Thursday. “Ford obviously has been looking to the hybrid game very seriously and is definitely committed to the future vehicle market.”

In 2012, the Obama administration revised the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, requiring automakers to raise average fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Schuster said the new vehicle would help reach those standards, and to serve as an answer to growing customer demand for a unique hybrid.

The Dearborn automaker currently has six electric vehicles, including the C-Max Hybrid, C-Max Energi, Fusion Hybrid, Fusion Energi, Focus Electric and MKZ Hybrid. “If you look at our whole electrification portfolio, we’re very proud of it,” Miller said. “We’re on pace to possibly have our best electrification sales year this year.”

Analysts said the new vehicle would help it compete against Toyota.

“While the automaker has struggled on the hybrid side, with initial mpg ratings that had to be revised multiple times, it’s putting together an impressive list of fuel-saving efforts in multiple fields,” Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book’s, said in a statement. “Ford’s efforts to increase fuel efficiency, using multiple pathways beyond just hybrid technology, suggests it could potentially beat the Prius if it can bring these technologies together while controlling cost.”

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