The Chevrolet Volt is all the rage these days in automotive circles, but Ford wants no part of plug-in hybrids -- for now at least.
"Our position in the hybrid market makes it easier for us to sit back"

When it comes to advanced technologies to improve the fuel efficiency of America's vehicles, we often hear from the likes of General Motors and Toyota. Both companies are investing heavily in hybrid/plug-in hybrid technology and GM in particular has made huge leaps with fuel cell technology.

With the exception of advances to existing technology like turbocharging, and a few fuel cell demonstration vehicles, we haven't heard much from Ford. Ford currently only has three hybrid vehicles available on the market, and all three are essentially the same vehicle (Ford Escape Hybrid, Mazda Tribute Hybrid, and the Mercury Mariner Hybrid).

Ford is currently content with sitting back and letting GM and Toyota develop plug-in hybrid technology, and it will jump in after all of the heavy lifting has been done. "If customers aren't buying them, we're not making them," said Ford Senior Manager of Energy Storage Ted Miller. "If there's going to be a true plug-in hybrid market, we're going to be there. It's just that that's a huge commitment to actually go to production."

Ford says that its “wait and see” approach to plug-in hybrids gives it more focus and additional funds to develop and produce traditional hybrid vehicles. The company is currently in the process of putting the final touches on the production version of its Fusion Hybrid sedan.

However, with Toyota working on a plug-in version of its next generation Prius and GM taking up headlines with its Chevrolet Volt, Ford may be left without a star player in the race to produce vehicles that derive a large portion of their propulsion from electricity.

GM took a wait and see approach when the Prius first hit the market, and saw that it missed a great opportunity to place itself at the forefront of automotive technology. GM officials made it a point not to let that happen with plug-in hybrids and its efforts in the field with the Volt have so far out shadowed Toyota's efforts. Only time will tell, however, if public mindshare with the Volt will turn into sales of the estimated $40,000 vehicle.

Ford saw its sales dip 11% in May -- which included a nearly 20% decline for its stalwart F-Series trucks. With more Americans realizing that they don't need full-size trucks for their daily commutes during a period of record gas prices, the Honda Civic/Accord and Toyota Corolla/Civic went on to outsell the mighty F-Series during the month of May.

As Ford slowly builds its hybrid fleet and sits out the plug-in hybrid craze, it is hoping to bring a more fuel efficient, next generation Focus along with a new Fiesta to quench America’s thirst for fuel efficient vehicles. Both vehicles, however, won't make it to the U.S. until 2010 at the earliest.

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