Ford’s first production plug-in hybrid, the C-Max Energi, will go on sale this fall as the industry’s most affordable within the segment.
Starting at $33,745 before a $3,750 federal tax credit, Ford is banking its first attempt at the plug-in market by offering a relatively low cost alternative to cars like the Prius plug-in hybrid. It will also offer the car with features the Prius lacks; like a hands-free lift gate and active park assist. Add that in with the C-Max Energi’s pure electric 20-mile range, expected 47 mpg in the city and the blue oval brand might have a winner on its hands come fall.
But maybe not. While the Prius in all its incarnations has been a poster child for fuel efficiency, the Chevrolet Volt struggled through much of its maiden year. High initial cost and a barrage of bad press didn’t help, but the fact remained that people seemed somewhat wary of the unfamiliar car.
Ford already introduced the C-Max in Europe, selling more than 144,000 units in diesel and gasoline form in 2010. Unfortunately, cars sold in the European market might as well be in shangri la as far as most U.S. buyers are concerned. They rarely know of them, and those who do generally warm slowly to the idea of owning one — just ask Fiat.
Then again, this is an American car from an American brand. Ford also seems to have addressed the cost concerns Chevrolet dealt with out of the gate. What’s more, it also packs 60 hp more than the Prius plug-in, which will be a heavy contender.
“It offers exceptional fuel economy, better features and a better price tag than a Prius plug-in hybrid, which we think will help make C-MAX Energi one of our most attractive vehicles for import customers,” said Michael O’Brien, Ford electrified vehicle marketing manager.
If events play out that way, this could mark a strong start to Ford’s burgeoning push into the world of super-efficient vehicles.