Ford Puts Hybrid Cabs on New York Streets

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Ford Motor Co. (F) on Thursday introduced a mini-fleet of hybrid taxicabs to serve New York City, part of its push to promote cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Initially, only six Ford Escape hybrids will enter New York's taxi fleet. But city officials said the entire fleet of about 13,000 vehicles may be converted to gas-electric hybrids within five years.

"Hybrids save our customers money at the pump, and they reduce America's dependence on foreign oil," Chief Executive Bill Ford said at an event to unveil the vehicles at a Ford dealership in Manhattan.

"We're headed toward a world where cars will be smarter, safer, and more fuel-efficient, like the hybrids," he said.

The Ford hybrid sport utility vehicle gets as much as 36 miles per gallon in city driving, double the mileage of the taxi fleet's current Ford Crown Victoria model. A test model drove more than 500 miles on one tank of gas in New York, the CEO said.

Ford, which posted a $284 million third-quarter loss, is betting on hybrids as a cornerstone of its turn-around strategy.

The Detroit-based company recently said it is planning to boost global production of more fuel-efficient vehicles tenfold to 250,000 a year by 2010. The No. 2 U.S. automaker has doubled its hybrid vehicle team even as it is laying off staff in other departments.

Ford currently offers two hybrid models, the Escape and the Mercury Mariner. The company will offer hybrid capability in half of its models by 2010.