Twelve years. That's how long Toyota has sold the Prius in the United States. It's also how long Detroit has let the Prius command the demand for hybrids without building a direct competitor -- until now with the Ford C-Max Hybrid, which Ford said today would beat the Prius V wagon in fuel efficiency while costing $1,300 less. Finally, we have a ball game.
Despite its sales success, automakers other than Toyota have been loathe to build a stand-alone hybrid model, saying customers wouldn't bear the extra costs. The failure of the Honda Insight -- a car that's a near clone of the Prius -- only seemed to prove that Toyota had a secret sauce no other company could match.
To Ford's credit, the C-Max Hybrid has the recipe, at least on paper. Ford said today the C-Max will get 47 miles per gallon in both city and highway driving -- up to 7 mpg better than the Prius V. Ford had previously said the C-Max Hybrid would start at $25,995, compared with the Prius V's $26,550.
Part of Ford's savings comes from building the C-Max in Michigan using in-house parts, rather than relying on the same suppliers Toyota uses as Ford had done with other hybrid models. The C-Max won't be a huge seller, but it will test whether any automaker other than Toyota can sell a mass-market hybrid car.
Other stories from around the industry:
Nissan's new Mississippi hires: $12/hour, five-year "temporary" workers: I'm not sure how you can call someone you plan to employ for up to five years "temporary." Nissan says they will be offered full-time jobs at the end of their term. (Detroit Free Press)
Five popular cars to avoid: If you think Consumer Reports favors Japanese cars over American ones, note that two-fifths of this list come from Japan and three-fifths from Detroit. (Consumer Reports)
Nissan rolls out new London taxi idea: The NV200 van, which will become New York City's taxi of choice, may also replace London's black cabs. (Wall Street Journal)