August 16, 2022

Ford Cancels Minivan Plan for Hybrids and Plug-Ins

The car, called the C-Max, would be Ford’s first hybrid-only model in North America, in the same way that the Toyota Prius is offered only as a hybrid.

In addition, Ford said it intended to triple its production capacity for hybrid and electric cars in North America so that it could build more than 100,000 of them annually by 2013. The increase will add 220 jobs in Michigan, Ford said.

James D. Farley Jr., Ford’s group vice president for global marketing, sales and service, said the carmaker was planning for a future in which fuel efficiency remained a high priority for consumers.

“Customers have really changed in the last 120 days,” Mr. Farley told reporters at a transmission plant north of Detroit. “People are so focused on fuel economy.”

Ford officials said the C-Max hatchback presented a stronger business case than the gasoline-powered, seven-passenger Grand C-Max that it planned to import from Europe. Ford now sells C-Max hatchbacks and minivans in Europe, in gasoline and diesel varieties, and said demand for the five-passenger version had doubled there this year.

The C-Max now scheduled to go on sale in the United States will be built in suburban Detroit, alongside the similarly sized Focus compact car, which is available now with a traditional engine and will be sold as a battery-powered car starting later this year.

Rather than fight for a share of the small but somewhat resurgent minivan market, Ford is using the C-Max to take aim at the Prius and the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid built by General Motors.

Aaron Bragman, an analyst with the research firm IHS Automotive, said automakers were being forced to put more emphasis on hybrids by stricter federal mileage requirements, known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE.

“These powertrains are going to have to become ubiquitous in order to meet the new CAFE regulations,” Mr. Bragman said.

Ford declined to provide detailed specifications about the C-Max, but Mr. Bragman said he expected the plug-in version, called the Energi, to compare favorably to the Volt, which G.M. introduced late last year. The C-Max Energi will operate in a similar fashion as the Volt by allowing users to connect it to an electrical outlet or high-voltage charging station. It will run first solely on battery power before using any gasoline.

Mr. Farley said the C-Max Energi would be “fully competitive” with the Volt and would travel 500 miles on a full charge and tank of gas. The Volt has a combined range of about 379 miles, including 35 miles on the battery alone, according to its Environmental Protection Agency label.

Mr. Farley would not give a battery-only range for the C-Max, which has space for three passengers in the back seat. The Volt can fit only two passengers because its battery protrudes where the middle seat would be.

Mr. Bragman said Ford was likely to sell the C-Max for considerably less than the Volt because it is using a lot of common parts. The Volt has a sticker price of about $41,000, before a $7,500 federal tax credit.

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