Click above for a high-res image gallery of the Ford Escape Hybrid

Today, Ford celebrates a new milestone in the life of its hybrid SUV platform as the 100,000th vehicle rolls down the assembly line at the Blue Oval's Assembly Plant in Kansas City. This production total includes all Ford Escape Hybrids, Mercury Mariner Hybrids and Mazda Tribute Hybrids produced since 2004, the year that Ford launched its first ever fuel-saving gas/electric model.

Perhaps now would be a good time to remind our readers that Ford hit the 60,000 hybrid mark in the 4th quarter of 2008, meaning that the automaker's federal hybrid tax credit will be cut in half beginning in April of this year. Buyers wanting to capitalize on the full rebate will need to make their purchase before the end of this month.

Despite being on the market now for the last five years or so, Ford's hybrid SUVs continue to be the most fuel efficient 'utes on the market with an EPA estimated rating of 34 city, 31 highway. Feel like reminiscing? Click past the break for Ford's teary-eyed tribute to the Escape Hybrid.

Related GalleryABG Garage: 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid Limited

[Source: Ford]


PRESS RELEASE:

FORD CELEBRATES GREEN MILESTONE AS 100,000TH HYBRID SUV ROLLS OFF LINE AT KANSAS CITY PLANT

* Ford's 100,000th hybrid SUV rolls off the line today at the Kansas City Assembly Plant
* The Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids – the world's first hybrid SUVs – continue to be the most fuel-efficient hybrid SUVs on the planet at 34 mpg city driving
* Ford is doubling its production of hybrid vehicles this year with the introduction of the new 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids – America's most fuel-efficient midsize sedans at 41 mpg city driving
* Ford recently launched an aggressive electrification plan to bring pure battery-electric vehicles, next-generation hybrids and a plug-in hybrid to market by 2012

FAST FACTS ABOUT FORD HYBRIDS

CLAYCOMO, Mo., March 10, 2009 – Ford Motor Company today celebrated the production of its 100,000th hybrid SUV and reinforced its commitment to ramping up production of hybrid vehicles this year.

Ford launched the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids five years ago and the vehicles remain the most fuel-efficient SUVs on the market. At the same time as workers at Ford's Kansas City Assembly Plant celebrated the hybrid milestone, Ford dealers are preparing to begin selling the all-new 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids, which will be America's most fuel-efficient midsize sedans.

"As we celebrate our 100,000th hybrid, America's interest in hybrid vehicles keeps growing, as does Ford's commitment to advanced powertrain technologies that deliver greater fuel economy, lower emissions and help enhance our country's energy security," said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford. "No domestic automaker has more real-world experience with hybrid vehicle technology than Ford, and it shows in the quality and fuel economy of our vehicles."

Today, the Ford Escape Hybrid SUV and Mercury Mariner Hybrid SUV deliver 34 mpg city driving, 31 mpg highway. The newest entries to Ford's hybrid lineup, the Fusion Hybrid and Milan Hybrid deliver 41 mpg city driving, 36 mpg highway, the most fuel-efficient midsize sedans on the market today.

The Kansas City Assembly Plant, which employs 4,100 people, has been the hub for Ford's hybrid SUV production since 2004 when the first Ford Escape Hybrid rolled off the line. Lean, flexible manufacturing processes and specially-trained employees at the plant allow the hybrids to be built on the same production line as conventional Escape and Mariner SUVs.

"All of us at the plant feel tremendous pride as we celebrate this important milestone," said
Ken Ward, Kansas City plant manager. "We are as enthusiastic about building the 100,000th vehicle today as we were at the initial launch.

Jeff Wright, president of UAW Local 249 at the Kansas City plant also was at the plant when
the first Escape Hybrid was built.

"We have a great workforce in Kansas City and they are committed to building a high-quality vehicle," he said. "It's a testament to the employees that the hybrids have performed so well on the road."

In addition to the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner Hybrids, the Kansas City Assembly Plant builds the Ford F-150 Regular Cab, Super Cab and Super Crew; the Ford Escape; the Mercury Mariner and the Mazda Tribute.

A Look Back at the Ford Escape Hybrid
In 2004, Ford introduced the world to the first hybrid SUV – the Ford Escape Hybrid – by taking a record-breaking trek through the congested streets of Manhattan, where the vehicle exceeded all expectations, driving 37 straight hours and 576 miles on a single tank of gas.

The Escape Hybrid made history again in 2005 when it became the first hybrid vehicle to be used as a taxi in the U.S. The Escape Hybrid taxis were first introduced in San Francisco, and soon after, in New York City. There are now 250 Escape Hybrids providing taxi service in San Francisco and 1,400 in New York City.

This month, a San Francisco Escape Hybrid cab fleet accumulated 300,000 miles with no major mechanical problems. It is a true demonstration of the durability and reliability of the vehicles. Compared with conventional cabs, those 300,000 "hybrid" miles translate into a savings of approximately 5,000 gallons of gas or 100,000 pounds of carbon emissions.

From the streets of New York and San Francisco to the sandy beaches of Southern California, the Ford Escape Hybrid has proven to be the green vehicle of choice for a variety of users. Currently, a fleet of 45 customized Escape Hybrids serve as rescue vehicles for the Los Angeles County Ocean Lifeguards along 72 miles of California coastline.

After almost a year of rescue patrol, Mike Frazer, chief of Lifeguard Services, Los Angeles County Fire Department, says the lifeguards' appreciation of the Escape Hybrids continues to grow, especially now in difficult economic times.

"Our fuel consumption and costs have gone down dramatically. The money we are saving on fuel has allowed us to maintain our critical front line staffing despite the economic downturn. We also are saving money on vehicle maintenance," he explained. "It is not a stretch to say that our new fleet of Ford Escape Hybrids is allowing more lifeguards to staff towers and in essence, helping us saving lives."

Green Inside and Out:
The interior of the Escape Hybrid features earth-friendly cloth seat fabric made from post-industrial materials – polyester fibers that would have ended up in landfills otherwise.
The cushions also are made from a bio-based polyurethane foam derived from the oils of various plant seeds such as soybeans.

Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner Hybrids Today
Today, the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner Hybrids still are giving customers what they want – a "no-compromise" sport utility vehicle that combines the fuel economy and emissions benefits of a "full" hybrid with the go-anywhere capability, toughness and spaciousness of a small SUV.

The 2009 Escape and Mariner Hybrids offer an array of new features and technologies to strengthen their claim as America's most fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly SUVs.
Both the 2009 Escape and Mariner Hybrids have been recognized with a number of awards
and accolades. Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com recently named the Escape Hybrid one of its
"2009 Best New Family Vehicles." Other accolades include:

* "2009 Automotive Best Buys" by Consumers Digest magazine
* "Best Crossover/SUV Value Under $28,000" by IntelliChoice.com
* "Greener Choices" by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)
* Ward's Automotive Group "2009 Best Engines" list for the redesigned 2.5L I-4 engine

A Look Forward to the Future
Ford recently launched the next step in the electrification of vehicles with an aggressive plan to bring pure battery-electric vehicles, next-generation hybrids and a plug-in hybrid to market by 2012. During the next four years, Ford will introduce in North America: a battery electric Transit Connect commercial van in 2010, battery electric passenger car in 2011, next-generation hybrid vehicles, and a plug-in version in 2012.

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Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 213,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company's wholly owned brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com