A key problem needs to be resolved first.
The Ford Escape plug-in hybrid was originally scheduled to begin production this past spring but had to be rescheduled to summer because of the coronavirus outbreak. However, the Escape's European market twin, the Kuga, has been available as a PHEV for several months, though it's run into a potentially serious problem, forcing the automaker to again delay the Escape PHEV's production. Kuga PHEV sales have been halted while Ford investigates what's been causing some to catch on fire while charging.
Until an answer is found, owners have been advised not to charge them and drive in Auto EV mode only. Because of this, Ford won't begin Escape PHEV production until sometime in 2021.
"We're moving production to next year while we investigate what happened to the Kuga in Europe," spokesman Mike Levine told Bloomberg. "None have been sold in the U.S." Ford's Louisville, Kentucky plant still continues to produce the gas-powered Escape and Escape Hybrid. So far, Ford has recalled around 20,000 Kuga PHEVs in Europe and it makes sense it doesn't want to risk having to do the same in North America. Recalls are costly endeavors in terms of both money and reputation.
Another problem Ford is currently dealing with is that Escape demand has dropped in recent months. In the third quarter of this year, Escape sales were down by nearly 23 percent.
Could this have been a consequence of the pandemic? Initially, that was a plausible reason but, then again, overall Escape sales are down 32 percent this year. Ford is surely hoping the Escape PHEV's debut will help improve those figures.
For example, the automaker previously announced the Escape PHEV will offer best-in-class EPA-estimated all-electric economy rating of 100 MPGe and an EPA-estimated 37 miles of all-electric driving range. On gasoline power-only, the Escape PHEV achieves an also EPA-estimated 41 mpg combined. Ford is also reportedly developing a three-row version in order to further expand its market appeal.