Just in time for Earth Day this week, there's good news for environmentally-conscious automotive consumers from Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F). Today, editors of Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com named the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid to its 2009 list of "Top 10 Green Cars."
"This recognition says strong things about Ford as a hybrid manufacturer," said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book and kbb.com. "What we really like about both the Fusion and Escape Hybrids is that they do everything great hybrids should do - in terms of providing excellent fuel economy - but at the same time, they drive like conventional vehicles."
Nerad says fuel economy was just one of the factors editors of Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com took into consideration when selecting this year's list of "Top 10 Green Cars."
"We go beyond fuel economy and powertrain, and we look at things that people generally look at when buying any car, such as comfort, convenience, safety and value for the money," he said.
Ford Hybrid Marketing Manager David Finnegan says winning two of the 10 spots on kbb.com's "Top 10 Green Cars" list for 2009 demonstrates Ford's versatility as a hybrid manufacturer.
"We are continuing to expand our portfolio to offer consumers a wider range of alternatives," said Finnegan. "Not only do we have the most fuel-efficient SUV on the planet with the Ford Escape Hybrid but we also are committed to being a leader in the car segment. The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid provides 41 mpg in city driving and 36 mpg on the highway, making it North America's most fuel-efficient midsize sedan."
2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid
Nerad says the Ford Fusion is "getting better with age."
"We've always been fans of the Fusion platform, and while this isn't a completely new vehicle, it has been more extensively redone than most cars are in mid-cycle, which has left it looking great both inside and out," he said. "But we're even bigger believers in the Fusion after seeing and driving the new hybrid version."
Nerad says he particularly is impressed with the Fusion Hybrid because it drives like a conventional vehicle while still delivering outstanding fuel economy.
"We love the way it drives, and the Fusion Hybrid handily out-economizes both the Toyota Camry (33 mpg city/34 mpg hwy) and the Chevy Malibu (26mpg city/34 mpg hwy)," he said.
The Fusion Hybrid's class-leading fuel efficiency helped the vehicle garner its current tax credit of $1,700 from the federal government. Stacked together, the fuel savings and tax incentive can help significantly offset the premium for hybrid-electric technology over a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle.
Another factor that distinguishes the Fusion Hybrid from other hybrid vehicles is SmartGauge(TM) with EcoGuide, a unique instrument cluster execution that helps coach drivers on how to optimize the performance of their hybrid.
"It brings driver engagement to a whole new level by providing drivers with information that helps them achieve the greatest possible fuel economy," said Finnegan. "The gauges can be customized to show various status elements, including the charge level of the battery or how efficiently you're consuming fuel."
The SmartGauge with EcoGuide digital instrument cluster recently won a special achievement award for Best Graphic Display as part of the 2009 Ward's Interior of the Year competition, an annual contest that heralds vehicles for their interior styling, comfort, safety and value.
In addition to smart technology, the 2010 Fusion Hybrid offers a variety of advanced safety features. The vehicle received a "Top Safety Pick" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and delivers segment-exclusive safety and driver-aid technologies, such as Ford SYNC(TM) with 911 Assist and Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert.
Further enhancing its "green" sheen, the Fusion Hybrid features sustainable interior materials including seats that are made from eco-friendly fabric and filled with soy-based seat foam.
2009 Ford Escape Hybrid
The 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid earned a spot on kbb.com's inaugural "Top 10 Green Cars" list last year. This year marks the brand's second consecutive win.
"We think the Escape Hybrid is a terrific value on the hybrid scene," Nerad said. "We like its footprint and its compact size. It's easy to drive around town and yet comfortable for long highway trips. We're just fans of the vehicle all the way around."
Nerad singled out the Escape Hybrid's braking system as an example of why he thinks the vehicle is a winner.
"A lot of times with regenerative braking, there is an odd feeling to the brakes when the vehicle transitions from electric to gas, and that is not present in the Escape at all," he said. "It feels terrific as you're braking - just like a conventional car."
The 2009 Escape Hybrid also has received a number of accolades for its newly redesigned hybrid engine, an impressive list of standard safety features and its overall value, including:
"2009 Best New Family Vehicles" by Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com - chosen based on criteria such as fuel economy, resale value, capability and kid-friendliness
"2009 10 Best Engines" by Ward's Automotive Group
"Top Safety Pick" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
"5-star" crash rating by the U.S. government
"Best Crossover/SUV Value Under $28,000" by Intellichoice.com, a leading source for automotive ownership cost and value analysis
"The Escape Hybrid provides great flexibility for consumers because it is both a full hybrid vehicle and a full SUV," said Finnegan. "It enables people to do a lot of different things with the car and still get exceptional fuel economy."
The Escape Hybrid provides 34 mpg in city driving and - like the Fusion Hybrid - features comfort-designed seats with soy-based foam that substitutes for petroleum-based products, and seat fabrics are made from post-industrial 100 percent recycled materials.
"Customers can be environmentally responsible and still have a vehicle that provides the utility of an SUV and is fun to drive," said Finnegan.