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Ford pushes to go toe-to-toe with Toyota in hybrid market

By McClatchy Newspapers

Ford's targeted efforts to challenge Toyota in the hybrid market are gaining momentum. The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker said Friday it expects to hit a record 11 percent share of the electrified vehicle market when November sales are released Monday.

Toyota is the undisputed king of hybrid sales - the Prius alone accounts for more than half the market.

But Ford has been steadfastly increasing the number of vehicles with hybrid and plug-in alternatives, including the new Fusion. And Ford recently introduced its first dedicated hybrid nameplate: the C-Max, available only as a hybrid or plug-in hybrid.

Ford also has unabashedly targeted comparisons with Toyota products in its advertising in a deliberate effort to have its products associated with the big dog in the fuel-efficiency fight.

Ford said Friday that November will be its best hybrid sales month ever, with more than 6,000 sold, easily surpassing the previous record of 5,353 sold in July 2009.

The 11 percent share of the electrified market is a fivefold increase this year - largely on the roughly 4,400 C-Max and C-Max Energi hybrids sold in November.

November is the first full month of sales for the two versions of the C-Max and Fusion hybrid.

The new Fusion hybrid is staying on lots less than a week before being sold, and hybrids are accounting for 27 percent of Fusion sales to retail customers, Ford reports.

This week, the Fusion hybrid was named Green Car of the Year at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The increasing lineup of Ford vehicles with electric propulsion is prompting more consumers to cross shop against Toyota and other brands, said C.J. O'Donnell, marketing manager for Ford Electrified Vehicles.

"We're providing our customers the power to choose from a suite of electric vehicles," he said. 'Nearly all customers are prioritizing fuel economy, and more than 60 percent are considering hybrids."


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