Ford Hybrid Buyers Opt for Extras as Sales Increase

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

The dashboard for the Ford Fusion Hybrid during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. Close

The dashboard for the Ford Fusion Hybrid during the North American International Auto... Read More

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Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

The dashboard for the Ford Fusion Hybrid during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan.

Ford Motor Co. (F), expecting record U.S. sales of its hybrid vehicles this year, said buyers are equipping those cars with technology and safety options more frequently than models with conventional powertrains.

Ford delivered 21,080 hybrid vehicles in the year’s first three months, the first time that the automaker exceeded 20,000 such sales in a quarter, the company said. Of Fusion Hybrid sedan sales, 70 percent are equipped with the MyFord Touch technology system that’s sold as part of a $650 option, compared with less than half for the conventional Fusion.

Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally has introduced five new electric-powered models since late 2011 to take on Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), the U.S. hybrid market leader. Ford’s sales of hybrids are gaining while Toyota has posted some declines. Ford still trails Toyota significantly in hybrid sales.

“Demand for these options is a direct reflection of the customer who’s attracted to hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology,” C.J. O’Donnell, Ford’s group marketing manager for electrification, said in a telephone interview. “We are seeing some of the most affluent consumers walking into the showrooms and inquiring about the Fusion and C-Max hybrids.”

Ford boosted its hybrid sales more than fourfold from the first quarter of 2012, when the Dearborn, Michigan-based company delivered fewer than 5,000. Ford (F) still has a lot of ground to cover to catch Toyota. The latter sold 22,140 Prius vehicles in March alone, or more than all of Ford’s hybrid models in the first quarter.

Buying Options

In addition to more takers on MyFord Touch, the Fusion Hybrid is being equipped more frequently with Ford’s blind spot and lane-keeping system, which uses radar technology to warn drivers when they are weaving on the road. That equipment is purchased 31 percent of the time with Fusion hybrids, double the rate for the conventional Fusion, Ford said today in a statement.

Ford’s driver-assist package, which also includes automatic high-beam lights and rain-sensing wiper blades, is a $1,140 option, according to the company’s website.

An automated parallel-parking feature that is an $895 option is selected by 12 percent of Fusion hybrid buyers, compared with 7 percent for the regular Fusion.

Ford sees setting a new annual record for hybrid vehicle sales after the company last year came within 500 deliveries of its previous best in 2010, Erich Merkle, Ford’s sales analyst, said in January.

Toyota Sales

Toyota sold 83,559 electric-powered autos in the U.S. this year through March, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While the Toyota City, Japan-based company’s deliveries of those models slipped in March and February, the automaker still outsold Ford by almost 4-to-1.

Total sales of Ford’s Fusion, one of the leaders among U.S. automakers’ best lineup of cars in decades, have climbed 26 percent this year through March to 80,558. Toyota’s Camry deliveries dropped 4.3 percent to 100,830.

Ford rose 2.5 percent to $13.12 at the close in New York. The shares have gained 1.3 percent this year, trailing the 11 percent rise in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

To contact the reporter on this story: Craig Trudell in Southfield, Michigan, at ctrudell1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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