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USA; Ford sets bar high for U.S. sales of Fusion hybrids

Ford has amped up its ambitions for the all-new 2013 Fusion hybrid powertrains.

Consumers looking at the new midsize sedan can choose from five powertrains, but the Dearborn-based automaker expects at least 15% of them to drive off with the gas-electric hybrid or Energi plug-in models.

That is big leap. Hybrids accounted for 3.9% of Fusion sales through August and were 4.5% of 2011 sedan sales.

If Fusion’s 2013 sales are 300,000, then the hybrid/plug-in target would be 45,000, or more than twice Fusion hybrid’s previous best year of 20,816 in 2010, according to HybridCars.com. And Ford expects that 25% of those will be the Energi plug-in that will go into production in December for sale in February, said Samantha Hoyt, Fusion marketing manager.

Upward trending gas prices, a slew of new competing hybrids and the Fusion’s bold exterior styling should help. So should a pricing strategy that makes the hybrid version only slightly more expensive than some gas-engine options.

The 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine with a start-stop system that shuts the car off when stopped, is priced at $26,380, with a combined fuel-economy rating of 29 m.p.g. For $1,615 more, a buyer can get the full hybrid and 47 m.p.g.

The outgoing Fusion hybrid was as much as $8,000 more than its base gas-engine counterpart.

Raj Nair, head of global product development, said the strategy is to offer the $295 start-stop system for 3.5% better fuel economy or go straight to full hybrid.
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