Ford wants C-Max to grab fleet sales from Prius
LOS ANGELES -- With its new C-Max Hybrid, the Ford brand hopes to take a bite out of the Toyota Prius' dominance of the hybrid vehicle market, not just retail sales but also sales to fleets. Ford's marketing strategy includes attractive pricing and performance.
Here in Los Angeles, where Ford introduced journalists to the 2013 C-Max crossover, Priuses abound in the taxi fleet. Hybrids are ideally suited to the clogged L.A. streets and freeways; a hybrid can crawl along in electric mode with the engine shut off.
"It's a telltale sign that we're getting a lot of interest from fleet buyers," says Michael O'Brien, Ford's electrification marketing manager. That interest, he says, is coming from all sectors of the fleet market: commercial, government and rental.
O'Brien says Ford's research shows retail customers hesitate to buy hybrids because they perceive they will have to pay extra and accept performance compromises. Those barriers have kept hybrid sales stagnant at 2 to 3 percent of the U.S. light-vehicle market. Ford believes it has addressed those concerns, O'Brien says.
C-Max prices start at $25,995, including shipping. The C-Max gets an EPA rating of 47 mpg city/47 highway. It can hit a top speed of 62 mph in electric-only mode vs. less than 45 mpg for the Prius, and it can go 570 miles on a tank of gasoline.
Dealers are ordering the C-Max Hybrid, which will arrive in showrooms in early fall. A second model, a plug-in hybrid called the C-Max Energi, will arrive in dealerships a couple of months later. Both will be assembled in Wayne, Mich.
The C-Max is built on Ford's global C-car platform, shared with the Escape compact crossover and Focus compact car.
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