Ford to Pre-Sell Mercury Mariner Hybrid

Company will start taking orders July 11 to gauge demand before production begins.

Published: 15-Jun-2005

 Ford Motor Co., the No. 2 U.S. automaker, will start taking orders in July for its second gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle, the Mercury Mariner, to gauge demand before production begins.

Ford, which has sold hybrid Ford Escape sport utility vehicles since late 2004, will begin pre-selling the Mariner version July 11, when prices will be set, spokeswoman Sara Tatchio said. Ford aims to sell 20,000 Escape hybrids in that model's first 12 months and hasn't announced a sales target for the Mariner.

The first hybrid Mariners will be built in October, Tatchio said. The gap between the first orders and production "will give us a better sense of what volume to produce," she said.

U.S. hybrid sales have accelerated this year on rising gasoline prices and the introduction of new models such as Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus RX 400h SUV in April and Honda Motor Co.'s Accord hybrid in December.

Sales this year through May for the six models available — Toyota's Prius and RX 400h, Ford's Escape and Honda's Civic, Accord and Insight — totaled 73,335, more than double the 30,194 from a year ago.

The hybrid Escape sells for $27,515 to $29,140, compared with $20,040 to $29,070 for the standard version, according to Internet automotive information service Edmunds.com. The hybrid version of the Escape went into production in August at a Ford plant at Kansas City, Mo.

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Third quarter losses and fierce competition for American car and truck buyers, prompted the automaker to launch a corporate-wide campaign last month to reposition Ford Motor as a leader in innovation and cutting-edge energy policies.

While Ford is having trouble getting hybrids to American buyers, in the UK, Ford cars average 20-40 mpg more than their US counterparts.

Ford's next hybrid will be the Fusion slated to be introduced in 2008, along with the Mercury Milan Hybrid.

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