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First Drive: 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

Finally, a real challenger to Prius?

by on Aug.28, 2012

Ford hopes the distinctively designed C-Max Hybrid can challenge the dominance of the Toyota Prius.

Toyota has ruled the hybrid segment since the original Prius rolled onto the U.S. market a dozen years ago — and up until now Ford Motor Co. has trailed a distant second with its well-regarded Escape Hybrid.

But Ford is changing gears, having retired the gas-electric version of the Escape in favor of a new version of the updated crossover now powered by the maker’s well-received EcoBoost drivetrain. That doesn’t mean Ford is walking away from the battery-car market.  Far from it.  If anything, it is rolling out an assortment of hybrids and even more advanced vehicles that, it hopes, will gives the Detroit maker a chance to challenge Toyota’s perceived leadership in green automotive technology.

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Key to Ford’s bid to reduce Toyota’s dominance is the 2013 C-MAX hybrid, which comes with a five-door body style popular in Europe — and a completely new hybrid powertrain under the hood.  The C-Max is being positioned as a direct challenge to Prius and will be Ford’s first model line offered only with hybrid or plug-in hybrid power.


Ford Opts for Hybrid-Only Strategy for New C-Max

Planned people mover will be launched with hybrid and plug-in powertrains only.

by on Jun.09, 2011

Ford will offer the C-Max with only a choice of two hybrid drivelines, including the extended-range C-Max Energi plug-in.

This story has been updated from the original to include more detail and official Ford comments on the C-Max project. Editor Joe Szczesny contributed to this report.

Ford Motor Co. planners have shifted direction for the upcoming launch of the all-new C-Max microvan.  The new people mover will be sold only as a hybrid model, becoming the first dedicated gas-electric offering in the Ford line-up.

While Ford has decided to scrub a gas-powered, three-row version of the C-Max, the 2-row 5-seater will give U.S. buyers a choice of two battery-based drivetrains: a conventional hybrid, similar to the system now used in models such as the Ford Escape Hybrid, and a new plug-in version, the first time Ford has used that technology, which will allow a motorist to run extended distances on battery power alone.

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“This is our Prius fighter,” said Jim Farley, Ford vice president of global marketing, sales and service, said Thursday as he showed off  the hybrid version of the C-Max multi-purpose vehicle during a press conference at a Ford transmission plant outside Detroit.

There are several reasons for the change in strategy.  For one thing, Farley had argued that the maker needs a true high-tech halo car, much like the Toyota Prius, that is offered solely with hybrid technology.  Though Ford has greatly expanded its gas-electric line-up – and plans to have five battery-electric or plug-in models on the market before mid-decade – it doesn’t have a visually distinctive model that effectively says “hybrid.”


First Drive: 2012 Ford C-Max

Getting the max out of the minivan.

by on Dec.20, 2010

Ford introduces a hands-free liftgate system on its new 2012 C-Max.

When it’s time to set up a joke on late-night television, there are several things that will always get you a laugh.  Mention New Jersey, for one.  Or minivans.  The much-maligned people mover is seemingly a stand-in for everything worth jibing about with suburban American life.

Which is funny because, when it comes down to practicality, perhaps no vehicle more serious about doing its job than the classic American minivan.  They’re roomy, safe, practical, efficient and, well, try to squeeze nearly as much stuff into the back of an SUV, or simply get the kids in and buckled up without that signature sliding door.

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Which is why, despite the most dire predictions, the minivan market hasn’t dried up and blown away. If anything, it’s regaining strength after hitting last year’s segment low – and giving hope to Ford Motor Co. that its newest offering will finally help the maker capture a solid share of what it prefers to call the “people-mover segment” with the all-new 2012 Ford C-Max.

Call it what you will, but this compact 7-seater could finally give Ford a shot at buyers who have long ignored offerings like the Windstar and Freestar (Click Here for more.) And if we see the serious run up in fuel prices many predict, the C-Max could become a serious alternative to the bigger minivans that currently comprise the vast majority of what’s available in the U.S.

The 2012 Ford C-Max is surprisingly roomy, despite its compact footprint, attractive, affordable and fuel efficient.  It also offers a number of interesting innovations – including a new hands-free liftgate that we expect competitors like Chrysler, Honda and Toyota racing to reverse-engineer.


Opinion: Can C-Max Succeed Where Other Ford Minivans Have Failed?

Domestic maker struggled for alternative in segment increasingly dominated by imports.

by on Dec.20, 2010

Coming to America - under the Ford C-Max nameplate, the European version of this "people mover" carries a Grand C-Max badge.

More than a quarter-century after Chrysler launched the first truly mainstream minivan, Ford Motor Co. remains a company in search of its own alternative.

It’s not that Ford hasn’t tried; far from it.  It has tried repeatedly to crack a segment of the market that once generated sales of well over one million vehicles annually – most notably with the long-running Windstar.  The first time out of the box, Ford boasted that its approach offered 99 advantages over Chrysler’s competing entries, which then included such models as the Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan.  But buyers would have nothing of it.

Time and again, Ford fell short, finally abandoning the classic minivan segment after the abortive Freestar fell flat.

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If you can’t dominate an existing market segment, automakers have come to believe, the best approach is to create a new segment of your own – which Ford tried, two years ago, with the introduction of the Flex “people mover.”  Flex is a solid and impressive vehicle, all the more so after you spend some time behind  the wheel.  But its long, boxy shape and the lack of sliding doors – a minivan staple – have hurt it in the market, where Flex continues to lag far behind the two current Chrysler minivan offerings, as well as the various Japanese competitors that have increasingly gained strength over the years.

But Ford will be back, even if the company does continue to stick with the term, people mover, rather than minivan, for the 2012 C-Max that it formally unveiled in Europe, earlier this year – and which will get its first American showing at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show.