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Ford Holds Off Until 2021 on Plug-In Escape

Fire issue in Europe delays U.S. launch again
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Fans in the U.S. will have to wait until early 2021—a year after the planned debut—to get their hands on a plug-in hybrid version of the Ford Escape small crossover.

Plant disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic already have put the vehicle six months behind schedule.

2020 Ford Escape  (Images: Ford)

Problem in Europe

Now Ford says it won’t release the car for production until it figures out a fix for European versions of the plug-in, sold there under the Kuga nameplate, that have caught fire during battery charging.

Seven such fires prompted Ford to recall 20,500 Kuga plug-ins in Europe. The company believes the problem is insufficient venting of heat generated during the charging process. But a definitive cure may be months away, a spokesman tells Bloomberg News.

Meanwhile, Ford says owners of Kuga plug-ins may continue to drive their Kugas, which will function safely as a conventional hybrid, as long as they don’t plug in their vehicles until repairs are made.

Other Iterations

Ford has been building piston-only versions of the Escape at its factory in Louisville, Ky., since the end of last year. The model comes in five trim levels and, in keeping with a more aerodynamic exterior aimed at hiking the vehicle’s sophistication, a long list of tech options.

The base Escape is more than 200 lbs lighter than its predecessor, thanks to more extensive use of high-strength steel. Ford says all versions of the Escape target driving ranges of at least 400 miles.

The Louisville plant has reintroduced a standard hybrid variant with no plug-in capability. Ford says the plug-in variant, which uses a larger storage battery, will be able to travel a best-in-class 550 miles per fill-up, including 30 miles in electric-only mode.

Implications

A delay in launching the plug-in Escape isn’t all bad. U.S. demand for small crossovers in general has been down by one-third this year, largely because of the impact of COVID-19.

But Ford is counting on plug-ins to provide a smooth transition for itself, not to mention its customers, from internal combustion power to an eventual future of all-electric propulsion.

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