Why no hybrid version of Ford's Escape? 2 reasons
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.
At a press event in Dearborn, Mich., last week, Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of global product development, said there are two reasons.
First, Ford's EcoBoost four-cylinder engines will offer fuel economy "that approaches the existing hybrid," he said. Ford concluded that an Escape with higher fuel economy 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 will begin in the second half of 2012, Ford said in a statement.
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 move eventually to the C-Max.
Another likely reason? The hybrid version isn't selling. Through November, U.S. sales of the Escape hybrid fell to 9,009 -- a 13 percent decline from the same period last year.
Does the decline reflect a downward spiral in Escape sales?
No way. In fact, 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.
Blame stable gasoline prices for lost sales; most buyers don't see a need to pay a premium price for a hybrid powertrain that sips gas. Today's gasoline prices are acceptable to those buyers.
But it's certainly a yellow flag over Ford's future electrification programs. Ford has to be hoping its C-Max twins arrive as gasoline prices are escalating.