FORD ESCAPE HYBRID
Stephen Chernin  /  Getty Images
Ford's hybrid version of its Escape SUV, seen above, looks just like a gasoline Escape on the outside, but the inside contains a battery pack that allows it to run on electricity.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 6/14/2004 1:20:41 PM ET 2004-06-14T17:20:41

Ford Motor's new Escape Hybrid sport utility vehicle, with an electric motor to help its engine wring twice as many miles from a gallon of gasoline, will cost at least $3,300 more than a standard Escape SUV, the automaker said Monday.

The front-wheel drive model of the 2005 Escape Hybrid, which gets an estimated 35 to 40 miles per gallon and goes on sale late this summer, will be $26,970,. The four-wheel drive model will be $28,595. Both prices include destination and delivery charges of $590.

The vehicle is Ford’s first hybrid, and the first hybrid SUV on the market. The manufacturers suggested retail price of the Escape Hybrid will be between $3,300 to $3,425 above the price of a comparably equipped Escape XLT model with a V-6 engine.

$1,500 federal deduction
Automakers price hybrids several thousand dollars higher to compensate for the cost of batteries and other components. The recent gasoline price surge has generated interest among U.S. consumers in fuel-efficient hybrid engines, although roomy SUVs remain more popular than smaller cars.

The Escape Hybrid qualifies for various federal and state incentives, including a “clean fuel vehicles” federal tax deduction of $1,500 for 2004 purchases. The deduction was $2,000 for hybrids bought in 2003, and slides to $1,000 in 2005. Some states offer additional tax incentives.

The warranty is three years or 36,000 miles for bumper-to-bumper coverage and eight years or 100,000 miles for the hybrid battery pack.

Crash tests improve
On Sunday, an insurance group said Ford had stiffened the Escape to improve its performance in frontal crash tests, but the small sport utility vehicle still lags rivals.

Honda hybridThe Escape, one of the top-selling small SUVs in the United States, improved its rating to “acceptable” from “marginal” in crash tests done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Competitors such as Honda's CR-V, Mitsubishi's Outlander and General Motors' Saturn Vue all earned “good” ratings in past frontal crash tests conducted by the IIHS, which is funded by insurance companies.

Fuel economy and tax credit background on hybrids is online at www.fueleconomy.gov.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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