American car manufacturer Ford plans to launch a new hybrid gasoline-electric car to break into a market dominated by Toyota’s Prius.
The new car, expected to hit the stores in 2019, will be Ford’s first dedicated hybrid vehicle. The company already produces a hybrid variant of its Fusion car, an alternative to an existing gasoline model.
Ford’s plans have been revealed by Reuters citing two unnamed sources. The name of the new vehicle has not yet been revealed but the sources said the car would be manufactured outside Detroit in Ford’s Wayne assembly plant in southeastern Michigan.
The sources said Ford could eventually offer several different body styles of the new hybrid, as Toyota does with the Prius. There would be different versions of the car's gasoline-electric drivetrain, including a more expensive plug-in model that can be recharged from an electric socket. According to Reuter’s sources, the company plans to produce about 120,000 of the new hybrid vehicles a year.
Ford declined to comment on the speculations.
If the plans come to fruition, Ford’s first dedicated electric hybrid will come about 21 years after the introduction of the original Prius in Japan.
Some of the hybrid technology, including electric motors, controllers and batteries, will be adapted from Ford's current hybrid models, although the dedicated 2019 model is expected to provide better fuel economy and range than today's hybrids.
The 2019 model, which carries the internal code C240, will be built on Ford's new C2 global compact architecture, which also will underpin the next-generation Focus and Escape, the sources said.
Ford, like other major global automakers, has been investing heavily in hybrid technology to meet increasingly stringent emissions and fuel economy standards in North America, Europe and Asia. But consumer demand for hybrids hasn't come close to meeting the industry's sales projections.
Sales of the Chevrolet Volt, General Motors' widely advertised plug-in hybrid, have been just 10,635 vehicles through the first seven months of this year, down 9 per cent from a year ago, despite heavy dealer discounts.
Sales of Ford's C-Max hybrid are down 29 per cent in the first seven months, to 16,444. Sales of its Fusion hybrid are up 24 per cent, to 31,092, but still only account for one in every six Fusions sold in the US.
Prius, which has been sold in North America since 2000, remains the leading hybrid in global markets. Its US sales in the first seven months of this year are down 11 per cent to 127,776. Last year, worldwide sales of the Prius topped 400,000.