Prior to our drive of the 2009 Ford Escape the other day, several Ford representatives talked about the changes for the new model year along with how the Escape is doing. Since the debut of the 2008 models a year ago, the Kansas City Assembly Plant that builds the Escape, Mariner and Mazda Tribute has been running at capacity including some overtime, a rare occurrence these days at Ford. While sales of many Ford models have been dropping like a stone this year, the Escape has done well, registering a 10 percent increase. One Escape model that hasn't increased sales in the last couple of years is the hybrid which is holding steady at about 25,000 annually and that will remain the case for 2009. Even though gas is now at or above $4/gallon, Ford will only build 25,000 Escapes again this year out of about 220,000 total (including Mariner and Tribute).
The obvious question is why. Although battery supply constraints would seem to be one likely answer, that is apparently not an issue. Ford claims they can get as many batteries as they need. It turns out that it's a business decision. With the plant running at capacity, in order for Ford to build more hybrids, they would have to cut production of the other models. Although no one from Ford was willing to openly admit it, the continued references to building as many Escapes as they can while limiting hybrid production at an arbitrary number indicates that it comes down to profit. Ford can clearly make a larger profit margin on the non-hybrid models and has made the calculation that 25,000 is enough to indicate they are serious while still maximizing cash flow wherever they can. Given Ford's precarious financial situation of late, you sure can't blame them although many who might want a high-mileage crossover might be disappointed. Later this year, Ford will be doubling their total hybrid production when they add the new Fusion and Milan hybrids. Those will apparently use an upgraded, next-generation version of Ford's hybrid system.