On The Electrified Racetrack, Ford Chases Toyota

When it comes to hybrid vehicles, Toyota has all but owned the market for years, benefitting from second-mover status and the strategic coup of creating the Prius sub-brand portfolio. Sales of the company's electrified cars are still over half of the total sales of such vehicles in the U.S. 

But Ford Motor and the other brands have their own arrays of electrified cars, and are chiseling away at Toyota's volume and share. The Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford said that in the quarter just passed, it sold 24,000 hybrids and that its share of the U.S. electrified vehicle market grew to nearly 16% in the first half of 2013. The company now has six electrified cars under four nameplates -- C-Max hybrid and plug-in hybrid, Ford Fusion plug-in hybrid, Ford Focus Electric and Lincoln MKZ hybrid -- and has grown share at a faster rate than competitors, gaining a percentage point in the first half, it reports.



Jesse Toprak, senior industry analyst at auto pricing, shopping and research site, points out that sales of hybrids for the first half of this year rose by 12% versus the first half of last year -- from 250,000 units to 282,000. He says that Toyota -- whose Prius is the best-known and top-selling electrified-car brand -- is losing some share as others field more hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. "They sold about 147,000 [electrified cars] in the first half, but their number actually went down 4% from 154,000 in the first half last year, and Ford is getting a lot of that market share."

He adds that Nissan is making a little dent, as is Chevrolet with Volt and its hybrids. He tells Marketing Daily that Ford is seeing sales rise partly because they are offering them at better prices. "They are pricing those vehicles more competitively now. And Ford is taken seriously by shoppers."

John Voelcker, senior editor of Green Car Reports, says the electrified market in general is growing, partly because consumer awareness is not as much of an issue now as it once was. "Hybrids have been around for 13 years now, so people are more familiar than when the cars were new, weird and different." Ford, he says, was actually the third manufacturer globally to sell electrified vehicles, after Toyota and Honda. "But Ford does have a strong track record in hybrids, so consumers are more confident, and more willing to say 'Ford knows what they're doing'." He tells Marketing Daily that the automaker had reported a capacity to make 100,000 electrified vehicles this year. "It looks like they might exceed that. They are on a roll."

Still, they are way behind the others: Worldwide, Toyota has made a total of 4 million electrified cars; Honda has made 1 million; and Ford's total production to date worldwide has been 435,000 Voelcker says, adding that its CMAX dedicated hybrid will be Ford's electric halo. "Ford said they were dedicated to bringing that name into public awareness, and that means sustained marketing." The company launched CMAX advertising last year, aimed directly at Toyota. "I've been seeing it consistently since introduction, so clearly Ford is making good on its promise to market CMAX. And they have been selling Fusion hybrids since 2010."

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