April 6, 2006

Ford Offering Interest-Free Loans on Hybrid SUVs

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. said on Thursday it is offering interest-free loans to consumers nationwide on its Escape hybrid and Mariner hybrid sport utility vehicles.

The automaker earlier offered the cheap loans only in California and Washington, D.C.

"We saw a tremendous response from that and saw double digit sales increases," Ford spokesman Monte Doran said.

Sales of the Escape hybrid, which was launched in the fall of 2004, increased 17 percent to 1,441 in March from the previous month.

Overall, sales of Ford hybrid SUVs rose 7 percent during the first quarter compared to a year ago.

Ford is far behind leader Toyota Motor Corp. in hybrid sales in the United States, but is planning to increase production of the gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles tenfold to 250,000 by 2010.

Doran said the program went into effect Monday and will expire on July 5.

In addition to rebates, Ford is also spending on advertising campaigns, featuring Kermit the Frog, that tout the company's commitment to hybrids.