Why Ford is dropping the Escape hybrid

Ford expects current Escape hybrid owners to eventually move to the C-Max hybrid, pictured, which hits the U.S. market in the second half of 2012. Photo credit: Ford
Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

One thing is missing from the 2013 Ford Escape.

When the redesigned Escape goes on sale early next year, a hybrid powertrain will not be available.

Why the change? After all, the Escape has been offered with a hybrid powertrain for years.

Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of global product development, says there are two reasons. Kuzak was interviewed during a press event today in Dearborn, Mich.

First, Ford's EcoBoost four-cylinder engines will offer fuel economy "that approaches the existing hybrid," he said. The automaker concluded that an Escape with higher mpg was not needed to attract buyers.

Second, Ford wanted a unique model that touts Ford's electrification program, a vehicle available with only two powertains: hybrid and plug-in hybrid. That's the upcoming C-Max, which is Ford's response to the Prius, the Toyota brand's dedicated model line for electrification. U.S. C-Max sales begin in the second half of 2012, Ford said in a statement today.

Kuzak says the C-Max is a multiactivity vehicle and provides nearly the same functionality as the Escape, plus better fuel economy, so Ford expects current Escape hybrid owners to eventually move to the C-Max.

Another likely reason? The hybrid version isn't selling. Through November, Escape hybrid U.S. sales fell to 9,009 vehicles -- a 13 percent decline from the same period last year, according to the Automotive News data center.

But at the same time, overall Escape sales have improved 33 percent to 228,719 vehicles – already making 2011 the best year in the 12-year history of the Escape.

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