Leave it to Ford to buck the industry trend. While hybrid sales across the industry are down 14 percent, sales of Ford hybrid cars and SUVs are up 73 percent. Curiously, more than 60 percent of these Ford hybrid customers previously owned an import car. Also curious is the way that taxi companies in New York and San Francisco are using Ford hybrids, racking up 300,000 miles on them before retiring them. Read on for more milestones that Ford hybrids are reaching.
The fuel economy and durability of hybrid versions of Ford Fusion and Escape and also Mercury Milan and Mariner are winning over large numbers of conquest customers, many of whom are previous import owners. Through September, Ford hybrid-vehicle sales are up 73 percent versus the same period in 2008, according to figures from Autodata Inc.
“Hybrid customers increasingly are considering Ford,” said David Finnegan, Ford hybrid marketing manager. ”More than 60 percent of Fusion Hybrid sales have been from non-Ford owners, and more than half of those are customers coming from import brands, mostly from Toyota and Honda.”
Ford’s strong 2009 hybrid sales have been fueled by the introduction of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids, the most fuel-efficient midsize sedans on the road. Both vehicles deliver an EPA-estimated 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, topping the Toyota Camry hybrid by 8 mpg in the city and 2 mpg on the highway.
Durable and fuel-efficient
While the introduction of the Fusion Hybrid has spurred sales from non-Ford owners, Ford’s longest-running hybrid nameplate, the Escape Hybrid, has proven particularly popular with Ford customers operating taxi, lifeguard and government fleets due to the combination of fuel efficiency and durability. The front-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid delivers an EPA-estimated 34 mpg in city driving and 31 mpg on the highway, making it the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market.
In 2005, San Francisco became one of the first cities to adopt hybrids into taxi service, with hybrids accounting for 14 percent of its current fleet. Each of the original fleet of 15 Escape Hybrids exceeded 300,000 miles per vehicle before being retired and replaced with more Escape Hybrids. There are almost 200 Escape Hybrid taxis on San Francisco’s streets today.
New York has more hybrid taxis in service than any other city in North America with 13,237, of which more than 2,000 are Escape Hybrids. The Big Apple recently has begun retiring its original fleet of Escape Hybrids put into service in the 2005 model year after accumulating 300,000 to 350,000 miles per vehicle.
“We’re extremely pleased with the performance of the Escape Hybrid in taxi service,” said Gerry Koss, Ford’s fleet marketing manager. “Not only have they proven very reliable, they’ve also saved taxi drivers money on gas and contributed to lower tailpipe and greenhouse gas emissions in the cities that use them in taxi fleets.”
“Greening” the federal government fleet
Government fleets also are seeking cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles and hybrids are filling that need. In 2009, federal agencies have purchased more than 3,000 hybrids from Ford, more than any other automotive brand. Included in the sales were 1,900 vehicles acquired through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the purpose of improving the fuel economy of the federal fleet. The U.S. Army was the single largest purchaser among the government fleets, acquiring 400 Fusion Hybrids.
Saving lives and conserving fuel
In 2008, Ford began delivery of a fleet of 45 Escape Hybrids to the Los Angeles County Lifeguards, a division of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, for use on rescue patrol along 72 miles of Southern California coastline. After the first 11 months of service, lifeguards reported that Escape Hybrids had played a crucial part in thousands of rescues and more than a million rescue preventions at L.A. County beaches.
The Escape Hybrid fleet enabled L.A. lifeguards to reduce their entire fleet’s fuel usage by 25 percent – more than 5,000 gallons of gas – during the first six months of service. That fuel cost savings has helped L.A. County to maintain its critical front line staffing despite the economic downturn.
The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid was put to the ultimate fuel-efficiency test earlier this year. A team of drivers, including racing star Carl Edwards and world-record breaking hypermiler Wayne Gerdes, drove more than 1,000 miles on a single tank of gas, raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in the process. We captured the challenge on video, which you can watch here.