Ford unveils world's first gas-electric hybrid SUV
Ford CEO Bill Ford stands next to a 2005 Ford Escape hybrid during its launch Thursday in Claycomo.
Orlin Wagner / the Associated Press
By David Twiddy
Claycomo — The Ford Motor Co. officially kicked off production Thursday of a hybrid version of its Escape SUV, the world's first gas-electric hybrid sports utility vehicle and the first hybrid vehicle produced by an American automaker.
Bill Ford, Ford's chairman and chief executive officer, drove the Escape into a roomful of autoworkers at the company's plant in suburban Kansas City, which will build 20,000 of the vehicles in the 2005 model year. Ford said providing a cleaner-burning, more fuel-efficient vehicle would keep the company competitive as more consumers consider gas prices and pollution when buying a car.
"They don't want to give up their SUVs, and we don't think they should have to," Ford said. "It gets them where they want to go with greater fuel efficiency and much lower emissions."
The Escape joins the Toyota Prius and the hybrid version of the Honda Civic as the only gas-electric vehicles available.
Company officials said demand for the new Escape, which starts at $26,300, about $3,300 more than the regular Escape, has been huge, with some dealers in California
already taking orders and amassing waiting lists of 80 or more people.
That mirrors the success of Honda and Toyota, which announced earlier this week that it would increase production of the Prius to 15,000 a month from the current 10,000. Toyota also plans to release hybrid versions of its Highlander and Lexus RX SUVs.
Ford officials said they were tentatively entering the hybrid market and, depending on how quickly the new Escape models sell, they could increase production.
The regular Escape is a strong seller for Ford with 167,668 units sold last year in the United States, according to Autodata Corp. The hybrid Escape uses a 200-pound, 330-volt battery pack to power the vehicle at low speeds and in stop-and-go traffic. A 2.3-liter gas-powered engine kicks in for faster speeds and to recharge the battery. Ford said the Escape gets up to 36 miles per gallon in city driving and produces 30 percent fewer emissions than the regular Escape, which is a low-emissions vehicle.
I would own one.
for everybody else?