DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. plans to bring back a Ford Escape hybrid, this time as a plug-in, and roll out hybrid versions of its full-size SUVs as it makes a bigger push into electrification toward the end of the decade.
The Escape plug-in hybrid, Ford Expedition hybrid and Lincoln Navigator hybrid are scheduled for release in 2019, sources with knowledge of Ford's product plans told Automotive News.
Those vehicles, along with a Lincoln MKC plug-in hybrid also expected in 2019, are four of the 13 electrified models Ford plans to introduce in the next five years. In January, the automaker identified seven of the other models, including hybrid versions of the Mustang and F-150 to be available by 2020.
Ford has said it is investing $4.5 billion to develop the 13 vehicles.
"They're at a critical point in their strategy, and that's trying to balance today and tomorrow," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. "You don't want to go all in on EVs at this point because that's not going to pay the bills and keep the lights on today, but you also don't want to get behind."
Adding hybrid versions of Ford's biggest SUVs makes sense, Schuster said, as the automaker tries to increase fuel economy without creating range anxiety for buyers who tend to take long road trips.
Redesigned, gasoline-powered versions of the Expedition and Navigator will arrive in dealerships this fall as Ford seeks to cash in on a popular segment. LMC has predicted that large SUV sales will grow 25 percent by 2022.
Crossovers continue to be hot as well, so Ford plans to add plug-in hybrid versions of its two compact offerings in 2019. Spy photos of a plug-in Escape surfaced this year, and sources told Automotive News that Ford also plans a plug-in hybrid variant of the MKC, which shares the same platform.
Ford sold a hybrid version of the Escape from 2004 through 2012, when it was discontinued because of slow sales and the launch of the C-Max hatchback, which is available as a plug-in or a traditional hybrid.
A plug-in hybrid can go limited distances without using gasoline and would be more efficient in city centers or on shorter trips, which could appeal to the tech-savvy younger customers of the Escape and MKC.
"Each of these alternative powertrains have advantages and disadvantages," Schuster said. "I think you have to take a basket approach; there's a lot of risk of just focusing on one technology."
Ford sees hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles playing a central role in a future shaped by autonomous cars and shared transportation.