The American hybrid landscape is shifting under our feet.
With the perceptible movement of a slow landslide, Ford hybrid sales have been dramatically increasing over the last year—sales in September were up 73% from last September. According to Automotive News (subs. req’d), this brings Ford within a few thousand units of overtaking Honda to become the second largest seller of hybrids in America.
These numbers are significant because, according to Ford hybrid marketing manager David Finnegan, “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.”
Confirming Finnegan’s assessment, the established hybrid juggernaut, Toyota, has seen sales of its hybrids plummet 28% in the same time period. Toyota still blows all the hybrid competition out of the water—capturing nearly 66% of all US hybrid sales—but the speed with which the changes are taking place certainly bodes well for a healthy and competitive hybrid marketplace in the future.
Ford’s sales increases have been driven mostly by favorable reviews of the new Ford Fusion Hybrid (AKA Mercury Milan Hybrid), but the venerable Escape Hybrid has seen upticks in sales as well. With the introduction of the 2010 Fusion, Ford has seen a 132% increase in overall Fusion sales in the last year.
Customers shopping for new hybrids have been lured to the Fusion Hybrid over competing models such as the Toyota Camry Hybrid due to superior mileage numbers and increasing confidence in Ford build quality. The Fusion Hybrid is certified by the EPA at 41 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, beating the Camry hybrid by 8 mpg in the city and 2 mpg on the highway.
For a long time now, it has been sad to see US automakers constantly loose market share to virtually everybody else (admittedly deserved by US auto execs). And as it was happening, I often looked on perplexed by what I was seeing—to me, it felt like the US automakers had a death wish. They simply weren’t making many cars that were worth buying. Sure, they were making pretty good SUVs and trucks, but they were becoming far to specialized in that area to remain secure.
But Ford, lone Ford, under the leadership of former Boeing exec Alan Mulally, began making important changes years ago which have, for the most part, shielded it from the same fate as the major disasters we now know as GM and Chrysler. And now the fruits of their efforts are showing. There was a point not too long ago I would never have considered buying a passenger car from an American auto maker, but I think I can safely say that time has now passed.
Sources: Automotive News, Ford Press Release
Image Credit: Ford