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Ford lacks Escape from hybrid shortage in U.S.

Sholnn Freeman, The Washington Post
Thursday, August 16, 2007

The popularity of the Ford Escape hybrid has taken the automaker by surprise and left its potential customers howling that the gas-electric SUVs are not widely available.

Car buyers say they cannot find the vehicles on dealers' lots, in dealer inventory systems online or just about anywhere else they look.


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The Ford Escape arrived in showrooms in 2004 as the first gas-electric hybrid version of sport utility vehicles, one of just a handful of vehicles in the category. Some Ford dealers, accustomed to selling bulky SUVs like the Explorer, said the Escape was their best-selling SUV.

Dealers countrywide are scrambling to get the SUVs. Customers are waiting and venting. Some have suggested sending e-mails to Alan Mulally, Ford's chief executive. Others are firing off increasingly bitter online posts about their experiences. "Where are the ... Hybrid Escapes" said a shopper in an discussion group last month.

According to Ford, the missing hybrid SUVs were headed to dealerships in California.

"We've noticed that California represents nearly 40 percent of hybrid sales," said a Ford spokesman. "As a result, that state gets the largest share of hybrid production. We are looking at whether we can make adjustments to satisfy demand in all parts of the country."

The Ford Escape has long been overshadowed by the popularity of the Toyota Prius. For the 2008 model year, Ford gave the Escape an exterior redesign and it comes with more standard features, including side airbags. The hybrid Escape gets about 30 miles per gallon, said. It sells for about $27,000, thousands of dollars less than Toyota's Highlander SUV hybrid.

In California, the hybrid Escape is selling for as much as $2,000 more than the sticker price, dealers said. At the beginning of the year, Ford was offering rebates of at least $3,000 to move the cars off dealer lots. In June, Ford sold 2,526 Escape hybrids, but the number of sales fell to 1,578 in July.
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