Given the major shift in consumer attitude towards fuel economy over the last few years, and the fact that auto makers’ fleets will now have to average 35.5 mpg by 2016 due to new regulations, it isn’t surprising that a car company would want to introduce more and more competitive, high mileage vehicles. But there’s a difference between simply adding more of those vehicles to your fleet, and adding them in a way that makes it almost lunacy to not buy them—which is exactly what Ford has gone and done with their 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.
Built to compete with the likes of other high end luxury brands such as Lexus, not only does the base model MKZ Hybrid come in at about $350 less than the Lexus HS 250h—which is a smaller, less well-appointed, and, arguably, uglier car—as Ford announced today, the base MKZ Hybrid will also compete directly with its non-hybrid cousin because, at $35,180, it will cost exactly the same as the base V6 MKZ.
Up to this point, it has been accepted that a hybrid version of a car will carry a premium of around $3,000 to $5,000 more than a comparable non-hybrid car. In the past it’s been questioned if that premium is actually associated with the hybrid components, or related to the fact that many hybrids come loaded with “forced features”—such as leather seats, upgraded sound systems, upgraded driver interfaces, etc.—that artificially raise the vehicle’s price while helping the manufacturer to recoup some of the costs of development.
Ford’s move with the MKZ Hybrid pricing scheme almost answers the question of whether or not hybrid prices were being inflated, and that answer seems to be “yes.” But Ford has said that they have no plans to alter the pricing on any of their other hybrids to bring parity between the gas and hybrid versions. Maybe this suggests that Lincolns, as luxury cars, already come loaded with tons of forced features, so there was no need to alter the pricing scheme. In any event, at this point you’d be hard pressed to not look at a Lincoln MKZ Hybrid if you were in the market for a high-end green mobile. Even if you were in the market for an MKZ and nothing else, you’d have to have a really good reason not to buy the hybrid over the V6. The only thing you lose out on is a bit of oomph. The hybrid has 191 horsepower whereas the V6 has 263. In my mind that’s a non-issue, especially considering that the hybrid is returns 36 mpg city /41 mpg highway, and the V6 returns 18/27. If you do mostly city driving, you’ll spend half as much on gas.
If Ford’s intent is to muscle in to hybrid dominance get the whole world watching, this is certainly one way to do it. It seems that with every recent announcement, new model and technology introduction, Ford is making it clear that they understand exactly what the modern car buyer wants.