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Ford hybrid sales will top calendar-year record by May 2013

The 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid shares platforms with

The 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid shares platforms with Ford's popular Focus compact car and Escape SUV. Credit:

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. - Ford Motor Co., seeking to challenge Toyota Motor Corp.’s dominance in gasoline-electric vehicles, said it will pass its full-year record for U.S. hybrid sales this month on demand for its Fusion and C-Max models.

Hybrid deliveries for Ford reached a monthly record 8,481 in April, bringing the total this year to 29,561, said Erich Merkle, U.S. sales analyst for the Dearborn, Mich.-based company. Ford’s annual record for such sales was 35,496 in 2010.

Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally has rolled out the new C-Max hybrids and electric versions of its redesigned Fusion sedan in the past year to take on Toyota, which has dominated with its Prius hybrids since the early 2000s. The new models build on Ford’s effort to add more fuel-efficient smaller cars that complement its strength in pickups and utility vehicles.

"We’re turning, conquesting and growing our sales the fastest in the largest hybrid markets in the country," Merkle said Thursday in a telephone interview. Sales of gasoline- electric Fusions beat the Camry hybrid in April, and the top four markets for Fusion hybrids this year are Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, Merkle said.

Ford’s share of U.S. hybrid sales was 18 percent last month, its highest ever and an increase from 3 percent a year earlier, he said. Only Toyota, at 58 percent, has a bigger share, according to Ford’s data. Ford has been outselling General Motors Co.’s hybrids in the U.S. since late last year, Merkle said.

Ford deliveries of Fusion hybrids rose fivefold to 3,989 in April, according to researcher Autodata Corp. Sales of Toyota City, Japan-based Toyota’s Camry hybrid declined 26 percent to 3,257.

Toyota reported May 1 that U.S. deliveries of its Prius hybrids fell 21 percent in April to 19,889 and declined 12 percent to 75,613 this year. The company sold 236,659 Prius cars in the U.S. last year.

Jim Lentz, Toyota’s CEO for North America, said last month that falling U.S. gasoline prices had curbed Prius demand. Toyota may not reach its U.S. sales target for Prius hybrids of about 250,000 this year, he said.

"It’ll be a challenge," Lentz said in an April 19 interview in New York. "We’ll continue to push Prius and Prius family, but if it ends up that demand is less than the sales forecast, that may be adjusted," he said without elaborating.

Ford rose 3.1 percent to $13.83 at the close in New York. The shares have climbed 6.8 percent this year, trailing the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index’s 13 percent rise.

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