— Ford Motor Co. announced plans on January 9 to expand its fleet of gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles, according to a report in Bloomberg News.
A gasoline-electric version of the Mariner sport-utility vehicle will go on sale this year, 12 months earlier than previously planned, Ford said in a statement. The company also said hybrid versions of the new Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans will debut in 2008.Ford began selling its first hybrid vehicle, a gasoline-electric version of its Escape SUV, last year. Ford disclosed the plans in a statement issued for the start of press previews at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The hybrid Escape SUV trailed Toyota Motor Corp.'s debut of hybrids by seven years and Honda Motor Co.'s by five. General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG announced last month a joint effort to develop a gasoline-electric power system by 2007. Ford also said in the statement that it planned to have a test fleet of hybrid Mazda Tribute SUVs on the road this year for production in 2007. Ford builds the Tribute for affiliate Mazda Motor Corp. The Escape, Mariner and Tribute share common components. The hybrid versions of each will be assembled in the same Kansas City factory. Versions of the Fusion and Milan with conventional engines go on sale this year and will be built in Mexico. Ford also said in its statement that the state of Florida will buy eight hydrogen-powered E-450 buses in 2006, and in addition, the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is working with Ford on plans for fleet use of hydrogen-powered buses next year.