The second largest U.S. automaker Ford Motor (F) has plans to launch an all-new hybrid gasoline-electric in 2018, according to a couple of close sources that told Reuters. With this hybrid offering, the Detroit automaker desires to take on foreign rival Toyota’s (TM) bestselling Prius. Ford is working to meet the stringent federal mandated mileage standards.
What to expect?
The car should be Ford’s first “dedicated” hybrid vehicle, manufactured to be sold as a pure hybrid instead of making some changes and upgrading current gasoline versions. The hybrid compact model would be manufactured close to Detroit at the Wayne assembly plant. The vehicle would be produced at the annual rate of 120,000 cars. Ford will produce the model on a fresh global architecture. The same architecture would also support the future Focus and Escape models.
The American automaker could ultimately produce different variants of the new hybrid just as Toyota offers different versions of the Prius. Ford could produce a pricey plug in model rechargeable at an electric outlets, and even make a number of versions of the gasoline-electric drivetrain car. When a Ford spokesperson was asked about the matter, he declined to comment on such speculations. A few typical hybrid technology such as batteries, controllers and electric motors could be incorporated in the existing hybrid models. The same would also be seen in its dedicated 2019 model, but with improved fuel efficiency and a better range compared with what the existing hybrids offer.
Taking up the challenge
Automakers across the globe have been pouring billions into developing the hybrid technology as they aspire to meet the difficult emission standards demanded by the regulators. North America, Europe and Asia have been very strict on their rules for fuel economy and emission standards. Ford, too, like other fellow players is heavily investing in this technology. The automaker presently has six electric cars – C-Max Hybrid, C-Max Energi, Fusion Hybrid, Fusion Energi, Focus Electric and MKZ Hybrid.
But unfortunately, the market for such cars is yet to mature. However, automakers are determined to explore this space, in anticipation of a solid future prospect as pollution concern is rising at an alarming rate.
The key stats
Ford’s hybrid is expected to hit the market as a 2019 model, which is more than two decade after Toyota released the original Prius in its home market Japan. Prius entered the North American market in 2000 and has been selling fabulously ever since. The car is the top selling hybrid worldwide, and last year its global sales touched the 400,000 mark. However, Prius’ U.S. sales this year through July has been a bit dismal, down 11% to 127,776.
Toyota Prius has been quite successful, but not without reasons. The Asian carmaker is the first auto giant stressing on green cars so much and putting in the effort of creating a strong portfolio of the same in its offerings. The carmaker’s manufactured a range of Prius cars, right from the Prius C hatchback to the huge Prius V.
Top American auto major General Motors (GM) has the Chevy Volt as a plug-in hybrid electric car, but is no match to the Prius in terms of the sticker price. While Prius starts at $20,000, the Volt costs at least $35,000. Now that a huge difference. This has had an effect on Volt’s sales, making Prius an obvious choice. Chevrolet is expected to introduce the 2016 Volt model in a year’s time. According to sources, Toyota is also preparing to bring the fourth generation of Prius in the latter half of 2015.
Kelly Blue Book analyst is confident regarding Ford’s endeavor in the hybrid space and says:
“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"
Ford’s upcoming hybrid should be prepared to face competition from existing rival models. It’s therefore essential for the carmaker to carve its product such that it stands strong against a Prius or a Volt. Analysts are hopeful that Ford’s new hybrid car would assist it in competing with the likes of Toyota and domestic rival General Motors. Let’s wait and watch out.