DETROIT --Ford Motor Co. said on Tuesday that the average fuel economy of its 2005 model year cars and trucks improved considerably, helped by the introduction of a hybrid SUV and more cars.
Ford, which is often criticized by environmentalists for its poor fuel economy record, is projecting an average fuel economy of 23.9 mpg for all its 2005 model-year vehicles, up 4.8 percent from the previous model year, according to an annual report released by the automaker.
The No. 2 U.S. automaker introduced the Escape hybrid SUV, which twins a gasoline engine with an electric motor and batteries to boost fuel economy, late last year and also added two cars to its fleet.
These helped the average fuel economy of Ford's fleet, Ford spokeswoman Chris Morrisroe said.
The estimated fuel economy for 2005 model year vehicles is the best since 2000, the automaker said. Ford's corporate fuel economy average fell to 22.8 mpg in 2004 from 23.6 miles per gallon in 2003.
The Environmental Protection Agency will release the fuel economy performance of 2005 model-year vehicles in March.
Chairman Bill Ford Jr. blamed the popularity of Ford's pickups and SUVs, which are less fuel efficient, for the company's poor fuel economy record.
Ford captured the nation's attention in 2000 when it pledged to increase the fuel economy of its SUV fleet by 25 percent, part of Bill Ford's strategy to improve the automaker's environmental image. But the automaker later backpedaled on that goal.