Will Ford Bring Its Plug-In Hybrids to Europe?

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Ford is finally debuting its version of the Fusion hybrid in Europe three years after the U.S. model appeared, but Blue Oval plug-in models still have no definitive future in the European Union. According to a report in Auto News, Ford is waiting to see greater demand or a strong response to Volkswagen plug-in models, one of which has already made its European launch.

Mondeo Hybrid’s European launch

The Ford Mondeo is the EU model of the Fusion, the midsize sedan that is available in both hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) models in the U.S. Despite the popularity of both cars among U.S. consumers, Ford has delayed the debut of the Mondeo Hybrid in Europe until the end of 2014. EU consumers will continue to have to wait for the plug-in version that Ford executives say won’t appear until there is a proven market for PHEV automobiles on the continent.

Through the first half of 2014, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is the best-selling plug-in among European consumers at 8,953 units sold. That number may sound small compared to the 20,800 Fusion Hybrids sold in the U.S. over the same period, but the numbers for the plug-in Chevy Volt (8,615 units through June 2014) are almost identical. By comparison, Ford sold 6,235 models of the Fusion Energi PHEV in the same time frame in the U.S. As for all-electric vehicles in Europe, Nissan led the way through June 2014 with 7,127 units sold.

Waiting on Volkswagen

Uli Koesters, Ford’s large vehicle director in Europe, told Auto News the automaker was considering its strategy for plug-ins now that the Mondeo Hybrid was about to launch and the Volkswagen Golf GTE has appeared on EU dealer lots. However, Koesters revealed some skepticism surrounding this form of auto hybrid technology.

“I believe the plug-in take-up in Europe is not quite as ready as some people would like to think,” Koesters told Auto News.

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Ford will watch the performance of its Fusion Hybrid variant to see what European demand is like, but equally important will be the performance of the Golf GTE and Passat GTE plug-ins. The VW Passat GTE, which appeared at the Paris Motor Show and will launch in 2015, offers some impressive specs for European consumers: 31 miles of electric range, 141 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe), 295 pounds-feet of torque, and a top speed of 136 miles per hour.

In other words, if European drivers don’t go for the Passat plug-in, they may be unbreakable in this segment. Should they appear hooked on the Golf and Passat plug-ins, Ford is capable of mobilizing the Mondeo platform for the plug-in Fusion Energi treatment.

U.S. plug-in boom

Despite a slight downturn in overall green car sales in the U.S. in 2014 (down 5%), plug-in vehicles are up a robust 39% for the year compared to the segment’s performance through September 2013. After three quarters of outperforming the prior year’s numbers, it’s clear U.S. plug-in sales are on a roll.

Across the pond, European electric vehicle stats show the segment up an astounding 91% through June 2014 (year-over-year), making it the fastest-growing segment in the EU. Tesla and BMW led the increase as Leaf sales remained strong.

Ironically, the Ford Fusion plug-in hybrid that will not launch in Europe anytime soon is the biggest driver of U.S. growth for the PHEV segment in 2014. Through September, the plug-in Fusion has posted a 179% increase in sales.