Gas-electric hybrid engines will be available in half the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury lineup by 2010, Ford Motor Chairman and CEO Bill Ford...
DEARBORN, Mich. — Gas-electric hybrid engines will be available in half the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury lineup by 2010, Ford Motor Chairman and CEO Bill Ford said yesterday.
Ford made the announcement in a speech to employees that called for a renewed emphasis on innovation and environmental leadership. Besides hybrids, Ford said the company plans to produce more vehicles capable of running on fuel-efficient ethanol and will offset the emissions from hybrid production by investing in renewable energy efforts.
Ford said the automaker will be able to produce 250,000 hybrids a year by 2010, 10 times the number it produces now. It now has two hybrid-sport-utility vehicles on the market. Ford has around 30 nameplates in its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury divisions.
“We know that our customers are increasingly concerned about energy,” Bill Ford said. “Our job is to help alleviate some of their concerns with viable options in their personal transportation.”
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Several automakers have recently announced plans to ramp up hybrid production to combat high gas prices, but Ford Motor’s is one of the most ambitious. Toyota, which dominates the U.S. hybrid market, has said it wants to sell 600,000 hybrids a year in the United States by early in the next decade. Hybrids now make up less than 1 percent of all vehicles sold.
Ford said the company also will be adding ethanol capability to four vehicles in 2006: the F-150 truck and the Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car sedans. Right now, Ford Motor makes ethanol-capable versions of the Ford Explorer SUV and Ford Taurus sedan.
Ford said the automaker plans to produce 280,000 ethanol-capable vehicles in 2006. The company already has about 1 million ethanol-capable vehicles on the road, he said.
Ethanol is an additive blended with gasoline to reduce auto emissions. About 400 of the country’s 176,000 fueling stations sell ethanol, mostly in Minnesota, according to Jason Mark, vehicles director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmentally oriented group.
Ford said the automaker plans to offset the carbon-dioxide emissions it takes to produce one hybrid by investing in renewable-energy projects such as wind farms.
The amount Ford Motor will donate will be in the range of $10 to $20 per vehicle produced. Ford said he may eventually expand the program to cover all the vehicles the company produces.
Ford Motor has been struggling with falling market share and profits as customers turn away from gas-guzzling SUVs, the company’s longtime cash cows. Its profit fell 19 percent in the second quarter to $946 million, and it set a goal of reducing its salaried work force in North America by 2,750 jobs by the end of this year.
Ford said he will announce a new restructuring plan next month, including a strategy for regaining profitability in North America. But he gave no details yesterday.
Despite its problems, Ford said the company has plenty of cash to invest in new technology, including the $5.6 billion it will gain from the sale of its Hertz rental-car unit. He also said the company expects hybrids to be profitable by 2010, and that they will be priced more competitively as the company gains expertise. Right now, hybrids cost at least $4,000 more than traditional vehicles.
Mark praised Ford’s announcement.
“It’s hard to go from zero to 100 overnight. Given where they are today, a tenfold increase in five years is a pretty impressive ramp-up,” he said.
Still, Mark said 280,000 vehicles represents only about 9 percent of Ford’s total sales of 3 million in 2004. He also said it’s in Ford’s interest to promote ethanol because automakers get credits from the government for making ethanol-capable vehicles, even if the drivers put gasoline in those vehicles.