Ford Motor Co. (F) said Monday that U.S. sales of its hybrid vehicles rose 50 percent to nearly 2,800 last month, boosted by aggressive incentives.

Preliminary numbers indicate Ford's hybrid sales were up 75 percent compared with March, Ford spokesman Monte Doran said.

Ford is expected to post an overall decline in April sales on weak demand for its traditional SUVs. Automakers are expected to release monthly U.S. sales results Tuesday.

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Ford began offering interest-free loans for up to 60 months to consumers nationwide in April on its Escape hybrid and Mariner hybrid sport utility vehicles.

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

"Our sales record is the product of an integrated marketing campaign to raise awareness for Ford's hybrid vehicles," Barry Redler, Ford's SUV group marketing manager, said in a statement.

Federal and state tax benefits, which in some states can total as much as $5,925, also fueled demand, Ford said.

Building and selling more hybrids is a major part of Ford's turnaround strategy, even though there are signs the hybrid market is cooling off.

The automaker is far behind leader Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) in hybrid sales in the United States, but is planning to boost production of the fuel-saving vehicles 10-fold to 250,000 by the end of the decade.

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