Ford will launch its first "dedicated" hybrid car to rival models like the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, and Chevrolet Volt by 2018. According to a new report from Reuters, Ford plans to launch the gasoline-hybrid car in both standard and plug-in versions as a 2019 model.
Launching a dedicated hybrid would be a big change from Ford's current hybrid strategy, as the company currently sells only hybrid versions of existing cars. The Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ, and Ford C-Max (pictured) are all offered as both traditional and hybrid vehicles (though the C-Max is only sold with hybrid power in the U.S., non-hybrid models are available in Europe). Meanwhile the Prius, Insight, and Volt are all hybrid-only models, helping them stand out in the marketplace.
According to Reuters, the future Ford hybrid would be based on existing technology from Ford's hybrid vehicles. It will share its platform with the next-generation Focus and Escape, and will be codenamed C240. The car could also reportedly be built in several different body styles to mirror the Toyota Prius, which has the standard model, a larger Prius V, and the smaller and more affordable Prius C.
Reuters says the future Ford hybrid will be built at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, which currently builds the Ford Focus (including its electric variant), as well as the Ford C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in. Ford is reportedly targeting 120,000 sales per year for the hybrid. For reference, the Toyota Prius family sold 234,228 units in the U.S. last year, although so far this year the models' sales are down 11 percent compared to that rate.
If the future Ford hybrid does materialize by late 2018, it will face stiffer competition in its segment. The next-generation Toyota Prius is expected to go on sale by the end of 2015, and will reportedly improve fuel economy by 10 percent compared to the current model. In addition, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt will debut at the 2015 Detroit auto show in January and may have a 20-percent greater all-electric driving range.
A Ford spokesman said the company, "is not ready to speak about future products at this time."