Ford Motor Co. said on May 13 that it is banking on its first gasoline-electric vehicle, the Escape Hybrid SUV, to help clear the air on its environmental commitment. The Escape Hybrid, which goes on sale late this summer, is the centerpiece of an aggressive new advertising campaign crafted to show “the green side of the blue oval.” The ads, appearing mostly in high-profile magazines and on the Internet, tout the Escape Hybrid’s low emissions and fuel economy rating of at least 35 mpg in the city. There are early signs the Escape Hybrid — the industry’s first hybrid SUV — is winning over a new audience. Of 30,000 people who have already visited Ford’s Web site and requested information about the Escape Hybrid, 70 percent are new to the brand. Ford plans to build and sell about 20,000 Escape Hybrids a year. Many of them are what Ford calls “the influentials.” Well-educated and not easily swayed, Ford hopes they will become ambassadors for the brand. But they’re not in the usual place automakers find customers — in front of the television set. Russ Sallese of Syosset, N.Y., has been following the Escape Hybrid’s development and plans to buy “the top model” for a simple reason: gasoline that now costs “two dollars and 13 cents a gallon.” Pricing on the Escape Hybrid has not been announced, but it will sell for more than the conventionally powered Escape that starts at $19,265.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials