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This article really says nothing about the 2nd generation system, just that it is coming.


Ford stressing quality, not quantity with production of its hybrid vehicles
AMY WILSON | Automotive News
Posted Date: 8/9/05

DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. is making a big bet on hybrid powertrains, but it will be years before its volumes reach the current level of hybrid leader Toyota Motor Corp.

Toyota expects to sell 145,000 hybrid vehicles in North America this year, a spokesman says. By comparison, Ford is committing to about 21,000 units combined for the Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid SUVs this year.

The Escape Hybrid debuted last year. The Mariner Hybrid went on sale in July for delivery this fall.

But Ford says it is not in a volume race with Toyota. Production for the Escape and Mariner hybrids is expected to increase to no more than a combined 25,000 units in 2006, says Ford's top hybrid engineer.

Studied pace

"I get all the time, 'You need more. You need more,'" says Mary Ann Wright, director of sustainable mobility technology and hybrid programs for Ford. "But the quality and performance out in the field has been very good. We are going to increase volumes, but we're going to do it at a pace where we can maintain really good quality."

Battery and transmission capacity have limited Ford's hybrid production. Ford's hybrid team is working to establish a North American supply base for hybrid components. But those suppliers probably won't be established firmly until Ford's second-generation hybrid system debuts in 2008 for the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans, Wright says.

By then, Ford Motor will have five hybrid nameplates in the mix: Escape Hybrid, Mariner Hybrid, Mazda Tribute Hybrid and the two sedans. The automaker is reluctant to suggest how many vehicles it might produce when all five models are in the hybrid stable. The Tribute goes on sale in 2007.

Ford's next big hybrid test comes with the debut of its second-generation system in the Fusion and Milan hybrids. Wright says Ford is striving to reduce weight, cut costs, increase fuel economy and improve performance.

Emissions trump horsepower

Although Toyota is leveraging some of its hybrid advances for better horsepower, Ford says environmental considerations will continue to drive its hybrid engineering.

"We see what's going on in the market," Wright says. "There does seem to be a shift toward the performance end of it. We obviously have to be competitive, but the No. 1 priority for any of these programs we're setting up is fuel economy and emissions."

Although Ford has devoted more resources to hybrid technology than any domestic automaker, a top Toyota hybrid engineer still describes Ford's hybrid efforts as "financially challenged."

Indeed, Ford COO Jim Padilla has acknowledged that the price premium on the Escape Hybrid falls far short of covering the additional costs of the system. Ford won't say when it expects to make money on hybrids.

David Hermance, Toyota executive engineer of environmental engineering, considers Honda Motor Co., not Ford, to be Toyota's toughest competitor in the hybrid race.

Toyota expects to sell about 100,000 Prius hybrids in 2005, plus 22,500 units each of the hybrid Toyota Highlander and Lexus RX 400h. Hybrid versions of other vehicles, including the Camry, will follow.

Says Hermance: "It isn't cheap to develop this stuff. No doubt (Ford) will exhibit a lot of learning along the way.
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