Ford’s CMax Takes A Bite Out of Toyota’s Prius While GM Others …

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Ford’s C-Max Takes A Bite Out of Toyota’s Prius, While GM, Others Amp Up Electric Output

Posted by Dale Buss on March 1, 2013 10:16 AM

Kate Ochsman is exactly the kind of customer that Ford is seeking for the C-Max hybrid in California: Young, artsy, indie, environmentally conscious, as the 26-year-old actress and overall creative talent puts it.

So after the Los Angeles-based Ochsman bought a new C-Max last fall and suggested to the dealer that she would be available to appear in ads for it, Ford took her up on the suggestion. Now Kate Bowenstage namejust began appearing in a Ford dealers’ TV ad in the state and also has been the star of a radio spot. Ford also plans to bring out more national TV ads soon using the same La Linea creative theme that made its initial TV ad for C-Max last falldirectly challenging the Toyota Prius hybrid lineso popular.

Ochsman bought a C-Max Hybrid, the main member of Ford’s new all-electrified-vehicle sub-brand, for exactly the reasons Ford would suspect. I liked the way it handled on a test drive and the space inside, Ochsman told brandchannel. I have a dog and I do lots of traveling and outdoors stuff.

When she decided she needed to replace her 2002 BMW X-5, Ochsman looked at a Toyota Priusthe specified comparison-sales target of the C-Maxand found it not very comfortable or esthetically pleasing, she said. She went to a Ford dealership because her first ride had been her father’s Ford Escape; but the Fusion sedan was way too big, while the Ford Focus seemed a little too cheap.

There are more such C-Max Goldilocks as well. Ford said that its share of the U.S. hybrid market grew by nearly 9 percentage points between December 2011 and December 2012, mostly from the October launch of C-Max, while Toyota’s share of hybrids dropped by 8 percentage pointseven though last year was the first complete year on the market for the company’s expanded lineup of Prius models.

Additionally, initial sales data show that C-Max is stealing hybrid sales away from other brands at an impressive pace. Its conquest rate is about 64 percent, with Prius and the Honda CR-V ranking as the top nameplates abandoned by customers like Ochsman in favor of C-Max.

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We clearly sought to go head-to-head with Prius in introducing C-Max, C.J. O’Donnell, Ford’s marketing and strategy manager for electrified vehicles, told brandchannel. C-Max is, all around, just a better car.

Meanwhile, despite less-than-stellar sales during its first two years on the market, General Motors is planning this year to boost output of Chevrolet Volt and other plug-in hybrids to as many as 36,000 units this year, about 20 percent more than it sold last year, Bloomberg reported.

The company’s reasoning apparently includes the fact that 2013 will be the first year that GM is making enough of the specially equipped Volts that can qualify for California’s high-occupancy car-pool lanes while only the driver is in the car; there was a shortage of such versions last year. Also, GM may be able to sell more Opel Ampera units, which is the name for a Volt-type car in Europe.

Initial demand for the new Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid, to be introduced in the U.S. in about a year, will nudge up production plans for this year as well, according to the news service.

U.S. sales of Volt more than tripled last year from the first year, to 23,461 units. But that was about half of GM’s original target for 2012 sales and Volt continues to be weighed down by factors such as the decided ambivalence of many Americans toward electrified vehicleseven one like Volt which has a gasoline engine onboard for when the battery runs out.

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