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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ford plans hybrid-only models

Ford, like Toyota, aims to create a family of hybrid-only vehicles. But Ford and its dealers have to decide who will sell them.

Ford Motor Co. plans to offer the C-Max vehicles in hybrid-only versions, with no gasoline-powered version. The two vehicles -- the C-Max hybrid five-seat hatchback and the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid -- will join the Transit Connect Electric commercial van, Focus electric and an unidentified fifth vehicle that will arrive in 2012.

Ford now sells hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion and Escape and the Lincoln MKZ.

Speaking last week about the C-Max models, Jim Farley, Ford's global marketing chief, said, "I am convinced that customers will appreciate that Ford now offers a dedicated body style for electric vehicle choices."

He announced that Ford had cancelled plans to sell the European-engineered seven-seat gasoline-powered C-Max in the United States.

The C-Max plan appears to mimic Toyota Motor Corp.'s plan for a family of Prius hybrid vehicles. The Toyota Prius and Honda Insight are the only hybrids that are not derivatives of gasoline-powered models.

Ford plans to triple North American production of electric vehicles and hybrids to more than 100,000 units by 2013.

While all Ford brand dealers are expected to sell the C-Max hatchback hybrid, dealers can choose not to sell the C-Max Energi. They will have to decide by the end of this summer whether to commit to investing in service-department training and meeting other requirements to get the Energi.

Both vehicles will go on sale in 2012, but Farley would not say whether they will go on sale nationwide or whether Ford will launch them in a few markets, as was true for the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and the Nissan Leaf electric car.

"Dealers will have to do different things, in terms of financing, arranging for the installation of the plug-in at the customer's house" and handling service, Farley said.

Best Buy will install the charging stations, he said.

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