This story has been updated from the original to include more detail and official Ford comments on the C-Max project. TheDetroitBureau.com 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.
“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.”