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Hybrid technology on Ford horizon

Under watch: Ford Australia will monitor the success or otherwise of the petrol-electric Escape in the US.

Ford Australia to keep petrol-electric technology ‘on the shelf’

26 Nov 2004

FORD Australia will keep a watching brief on the popularity of the Blue Oval’s first petrol-electric production car before introducing hybrid vehicle technology here.

Launched two months ago in the US, Ford’s petrol-electric Escape will need to prove a sales success in the world’s largest car market before it and other hybrid vehicles are considered for sale Down Under.

"We have a hybrid electric vehicle, the Ford Escape, but our strategy is to see how it goes in the US," said Ford Australia president Tom Gorman.

"Hybrid electric technology clearly works. It gives you lower fuel consumption if you drive in the city, but if you drive on the highway there’s no difference and it’s expensive technology."Mr Gorman said the hybrid Escape’s $US3500 premium in the US made it prohibitive for many customers, but that petrol-electric vehicle power remained an option for Ford once Australian consumers were ready to pay for it.

"You’ve got to drive a lot of city miles to make it pay. So I think you have to wait and see what the consumer appetite is and we have to be ready here if the market drives us in that direction.

"At the moment we really don’t have any plans to bring that technology here, but it’s on the shelf and it’s available, although it would obviously take some engineering to make it happen."Mr Gorman said he was encouraged by the relative sales success of Toyota’s Prius hybrid in Australia, but warned government incentives should not be a driving factor in increasing demand for hybrid vehicles.

"Government subsidies, in terms of tax benefits, for buying hybrids are a good idea, but buyers should drive the market, not governments," he said.

"When you get consumer pull for a technology, good things happen. When you get industry push, bad things happen."

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