Ford & GM To Announces Plans For More Hybrid-electric Vehicles

Hybrid electric Explorer to be available starting in 2004, following Escape HEV out in 2003. GM expected to make similar announcement during 2001 NAIAS.

Published: 09-Jan-2001

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co. will announce on Tuesday plans to add to its sport utility vehicles (SUV) beginning in 2002 a number of additional safety technologies, including advanced tire pressure monitoring systems.

Ford officials said the automaker would announce at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that it would begin deploying next year tire pressure technology on its SUVs and pickup trucks which would alert drivers if a tire became under-inflated.

The new safety devices follow a troubling year for the Ford Explorer, the top-selling SUV in the United States, which was at the center of the Bridgestone/Firestone recall of 6.5 million tires linked to the fatal highway death of 148 Americans. The tire pressure monitor features a pressure sensor inside each tire with a transmitter that communicates with a receiving module located inside the vehicle, able to activate a warning if the tire pressure fell too low.

Beginning with the new 2002 mid-size Explorer, other Ford SUVs will adopt front airbags that automatically adjust their deployment levels based on the severity of a crash, driver's seat position, and whether the passenger seat is occupied. The system automatically responds to different accident conditions.

Ford will also launch by 2005 on all its Ford brand SUVs a new side curtain airbag system, beginning with the 2002 Explorer.

Sensors able to detect if the vehicle is about to roll over will automatically deploy the head-and-chest side curtain airbag, to keep passengers from being thrown from the vehicle. The side curtain airbag will remain inflated for up to six seconds, longer than conventional airbags, to provide more safety.

Ford will also offer anti-lock braking systems (ABS) with electronic brake distribution (EBD) to cut stopping distances, and the AdvanceTrac driving stability system able to adjust braking to improve handling. Both of those systems will also appear in the new Explorer.

Ford will also announce plans to offer a hybrid gasoline-electric powered Ford Explorer in 2004 or 2005. Ford has said previously it would offer a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain for its Ford Escape compact SUV in 2003.

GM'S PLANS

General Motors Corp is also expected to announce on Tuesday plans to offer hybrid gasoline-electric powertrains on some of its products.

The industry publication Automotive News said on Monday that GM, under a program it calls "ParadiGM," would offer the advanced powertrains in a wide variety of vehicles, including sedans, minivans, pickup trucks and SUVs.

GM officials declined to comment specifically on the report on Monday, but confirmed they would have an announcement on Tuesday regarding hybrid engines.

Hybrid engines, available on the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, deliver better fuel efficiency and emit fewer pollutants. Because the vehicles generate electricity during braking and coasting, they never have to be recharged like pure electric vehicles.

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