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Ford has been building approximately 25,000 Escape/Mariner Hybrids per model year since the first shipped in fall 2004. With rising prices at the pumps (and customers waiting for hybrids after the 2008's were sold out), you would think that Ford would be increasing production for 2009.

Nope, the 2009 model run for the hybrid will again be 25,000 or so, leaving Ford well short of their originally stated goal to dramatically ramp up hybrid production by 2010. Indeed - despite being the first North American-based manufacturer to ship a full gas-electric hybrid to consumers - FoMoCo has failed to bring hybrid drive trains to any other model beyond their small SUV and output remains stagnant.

Originally, it was felt that a limitation in the number of NiMH battery packs available kept initial production low, but now Ford notes they can get as many batteries as they need. So the current cap on hybrids is actually due to production capacity at the Kansas City Assembly Plan - Ford has been pleased with sales of the Escape/Mariner line-up, with a 10 percent increase in sales while many other models have seen a significant drop. With the plant running at capacity (including overtime), Ford would have to scale back the production of the non-hybrid models in order to increase hybrids and this is not going to occur as the profit margin is maximised on the I4 and V6 units.

While the current situation is disappointing (though given Ford's economic performance, you can't fault them for the profit-first strategy), there is hope on the horizon. Ford's upgraded, next-generation hybrid system is supposed to make it's debut by late-2009 in the Fusion and Milan vehicles, which should double hybrid production to 50,000 vehicles per year.

In the meantime, the true "Limited" Escape will continue to be the Hybrid model.
 
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