Why Ford, Nissan are Saying Bye, Bye, Bye to Hybrid Vehicles

By Joel Arellano | April 12, 2012
Gas prices are skyrocketing and Americans are looking for relief. After blaming the government (of course), rational car owners look to drop their SUVs and crossovers for something that offers a bit more mpg, oftentimes shopping for a hybrid. Witness Toyota's difficulty in filling its Prius c orders. So why did Ford drop the Escape hybrid from its lineup when it debuted the all-new crossover at the year's 2012 Los Angeles Show? The Ford Escape hybrid was not only the first major hybrid crossover in the segment, but one of the best-selling vehicles in it as well. And Nissan, too, did not include a hybrid with the debut of the 2013 Nissan Altima sedan at the 2012 New York Auto Show. There are two major reasons given by the automakers. Both Ford and Nissan find the costs of the hybrid powertrain to be prohibitive. "At the end of the day, you always have to offer a business case," states Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas said at a recent roundtable. Nissan, on the other hand, licenses its hybrid technology from Toyota, which drives up its expenses when manufacturing the sedan. (Ford originally licensed its hybrid powetrain from Toyota as well before developing its own system.)
Both automakers offer competitive, non-hybrid powertrains as the second reason in ditching the original hybrid systems. The 2013 Ford Escape, for example, will be offered with two variants of its fuel-sipping EcoBoost powetrain. Fuel economy on either system have not yet been released but they're expected to be in the low thirties, which is very close to the current hybrid Escape which gets an estimated 34 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. The 2013 Nissan Altima is estimated to get around 27 mpg city and an outstanding 38 mpg highway. Nissan utilizes a variety of techniques including a more refined engine and lighter chassis to achieve its numbers.
Both automakers continue to offer electrified vehicles, though. The all-new Ford Fusion will offer two: a traditional gasoline-engine combination; and a plug-in "Energi" system. Nissan has indicated it is working on a hybrid powertrain based off its Leaf electric vehicle. Finally, both automakers may have been struck with prescience when they decided to drop their hybrid vehicles. Research agency Polk recently released a study showing that only 35-percent of Americans who currently own a hybrid would buy another one. Automotive.com's take: Do you agree with Ford and Nissan's discontinuation of the Escape and Altima hybrids? Or do you think they made a big mistake? As always, let us know in the comments below. Source: The Detroit Bureau

I think Ford made a strategic error spending r&d money on a totally electric Focus when If they had introduced a hybrid version first of the Focus it would have been a direct challenge to the Toyota Prius and the Prius C which was determined by Consumer Reports as a "not recommended" vehicle.

Kent Steinbrenner
Kent Steinbrenner

One thing to note, vis-à-vis Ford’s discontinuation of the Escape Hybrid: the advent of the C-Max this fall, which will be both a regular hybrid and a plug-in hybrid (C-Max Energi). Presumably Ford thought that they would already have a small people-mover hybrid with the C-Max, so why have two similar cars with the same powerplant?