Advertisement

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid: Can It Compete With Toyota Prius?

Follow John

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Los Angeles, August 2012

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Los Angeles, August 2012

Enlarge Photo

Several carmakers now offer hybrid models of existing cars, but the number of dedicated full hybrids on the mass market has been exactly one for a decade: the Toyota Prius, now a line of four models.

The launch of the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, which we recently drove, doubles that number.

And the C-Max potentially poses the first serious threat to the Prius, although it's still likely to sell at far lower volumes.

Ford has said it can make up to 100,000 "electrified" vehicles (hybrid, Energi plug-in hybrid, and battery electric cars) a year, and that it expects about 75 percent of them to be conventional hybrids.

Split among the upcoming Fusion Hybrid and the C-Max Hybrid, that means that even if the C-Max outsells the hybrid Fusion two-to-one, you're looking at about 50,000 C-Max Hybrids under the best of circumstances.

By comparison, Toyota , and is on track to sell roughly 200,000 Prius Liftbacks during 2012, plus another 60,000 or so of the three additional models: the Prius V wagon, the Prius C subcompact, and the Prius Plug-In Hybrid.

Since 1997, Toyota has built more than 2 million Priuses of three generations.

Still, we think even at lower volumes, the C-Max Hybrid could pose a compelling alternative to the Prius. Here how we see it stacking up.

Pros

  • It's a nicer car to drive than the Prius, and less stressed under heavy loads and hard acceleration
  • Its 47-mpg rating is close enough to the Prius's 50 mpg that buyers probably won't see an appreciable difference
  • The C-Max Hybrid has more interior room for people and cargo than the Prius Liftback (though not than the larger Prius V wagon)
  • The interior is more conventional, nicely styled, and of a higher quality than the hard-plastic Space Age styling of the Prius

Cons

  • It's a Ford, and while Ford hybrids are respected, the company has downplayed its hybrids in recent years to put marketing muscle behind its fuel-efficient EcoBoost gasoline engines
  • Visually, the C-Max is either a tall five-door hatchback or a small minivan; it doesn't have the distinct, instantly identifiable profile of any Prius since 2004
  • The Prius has held its resale value quite well, but the value of a used C-Max remains unknown--though the value of earlier Ford hybrids seems to have held up OK too

2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

Enlarge Photo

For the record, yes, Honda has two dedicated hybrids as well--the Insight and CR-Z. But they're mild hybrids, and sales of both models have been far below the company's expectations.

There has also been the Lexus HS 250h sedan (now discontinued in the U.S.) and the CT 200h compact hybrid hatchback.

But the Lexus brand isn't necessarily where fuel-efficiency minded buyers think to turn, and Ford competes directly with Toyota in the mass market segments that count.

What do you think? Will the C-Max Hybrid have an impact on Prius sales? Will it grow the overall market for hybrids? Or will Toyota not even notice?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

+++++++++++

Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter.

Advertisement
 
Follow Us

 

Have an opinion?

  • Posting indicates you have read this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
  • Notify me when there are more comments
Comments (24)
  1. Personally, I think it will grow the market. There are many people that have a negative association with the Prius (or perhaps more to the point, their drivers). Being able to buy a Ford instead will offer people a great "American" alternative.
     
    Post Reply
    +2
    Bad stuff?

  2. I think C-MAX will do just fine. Especially in this new ranking that combine MPG with Performance in a new "twist"...

    http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Car-rankings-new-twist-3845798.php#photo-3417689
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  3. Spent the last month unsuccessfully trying to get Ford to warranty a failed hybrid battery cooling system of my 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid(only 140,000 km). Will never buy another vehicle from Ford. If they will not proudly stand behind the vehicles that they make, then purchasing the CMAX would be like burning my money. Have no faith that Ford has the technological ability to properly engineer and build a vehicle of this complexity & ABSOLUTELY no trust that they will support the customers who buy it when it will inevitably fail. I purchased the Toyota Prius V and sleep easy knowing that this amazing vehicle contains Toyota's legendary quality and that Toyota's respect for its customers will alleviate any concerns if problems do arise.
     
    Post Reply
    -1
    Bad stuff?

     
  4. Buy a Volt then... It will warranty the battery for that long. Plus it got better performance. Unless you have to have the Prius V space.

    Prius V is a good choice though. If Volt didn't exist, I might have looked at buying a Prius V.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  5. I have a 2010 Escape Hybrid with 38,000 mi and I have had no problems. Originally had a 2008 with a throttle sensor problem that Ford took care of at no charge. I am wondering why Ford did not warranty the battery cooling system. It is my understanding that the hybrid warranty was and is 8 years or 100,000 miles. If you were at 87,000 miles were you over the 8 year mark? If you were not over the 8 year mark, I recommend you go directly to Ford.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  6. BTW your 2005 Hybrid Escape used a Toyota designed system! We have had good AND bad Ford dealer service departments.
     
    Post Reply
    +2
    Bad stuff?

     
  7. This often repeated rumor is categorically not true. Ford designed its own hybrid system even the Gen I system. Ford did not get any technical assistance whatsover from Toyota -- no engineers, no drawings, no phone calls, no meetings, no faxes, nada.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

     
  8. Thanks I stand corrected. "The reality is that Ford independently developed its own hybrid system at the same time Toyota was doing its own. The basic architecture of both systems is the same and both are based on the concepts developed and patented by TRW engineers in the late 1960s. When Ford introduced the Escape Hybrid, Toyota went after the Blue Oval for infringing on its patents. Ford had patents of its own on the technology that Toyota was using. Eventually, the two companies reached a cross-licensing agreement that gives both companies the right to build their own systems. Such cross-licensing agreements are common in these kinds of cases, but Ford did not use the Toyota hybrid system."
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

     
  9. @Paul, the piece you quoted is almost right but not toally. As the Escape hybrid headed to production, the new Chief Program Engineer asked her team to do a full review of the program, and one of the questions she asked was "are there any areas that Toyota could challenge us on?" When she got the response, she met with Ford's lawyers who contacted Toyota's lawyers and a few minor Ford patents were cross traded with Toyota for the areas where there was overlap between the Ford and Toyota hybrids. Painless, and the piece you quoted is correct that it's very common in the auto industry to cross-licence.

    Ford's Gen II and the new Gen III systems are not covered under the patent trade (it's not required).
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  10. My undestanding goes like this:
    Volvo had been working with the Aisin transmission company (which is in part owned by Toyota) to develop hybrids.
    Ford buys Volvo. Hybrid plans for Volvo bran name are tabled.
    Toyota works with Aisin, releases hybrids.
    Ford releases hybrids.
    Similarities are due to Aisin having reached a working solution for hybrids AND having corporate links to both companies.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  11. There are more comments in this thread
  12. C-max is dedicated hybrid in US only. European versions include non-hybrid gas and diesel.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  13. "Cons - It's a Ford, and while Ford hybrids are respected, the company has downplayed its hybrids in recent years to put marketing muscle behind its fuel-efficient EcoBoost gasoline engines"

    How is that a con for the c-max? The ecoboost engines are amazing in my opinion. Why wouldn't they market the crap out of them.
     
    Post Reply
    +2
    Bad stuff?

     
  14. @Kevin: Because Ford will make and sell far more EcoBoost cars than hybrids/plug-ins, there is a fear that it will not devote adequate and sustained marketing dollars to promoting its two new hybrids--one of which is a new nameplate, which is a challenge all by itself.

    The C-Max execs I talked to seem aware of this concern, and at the launch event they pledged a large and sustained marketing and promotional campaign to launch C-Max as a new and long-term model joining the Ford portfolio.

    But the proof will be in the pudding, as advertising for the Escape Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid was sporadic at best, and sales somewhat reflected that.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

     
  15. The C-Max name is a bit of a negative. The "Preeus" is a simple name implying hybrid much like "Xeeerox" implied photocopying. C-Max does not roll off the tongue nor does it stand for much.

    How about names like Ford Lightning, Ford Bantam, Ford Stallion. Even the Ford 500's name, given just a number, could have been more interesting.

    C-Max. Fine. C-Max Energi? Another goofy name.
     
    Post Reply
    -1
    Bad stuff?

  16. Ummm, Honda Insight, Lexus CT 200h, Chevy Volt? "but the number of dedicated full hybrids on the mass market has been exactly one..."
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

     
  17. @Joel: We don't include the Volt, since it's a plug-in, but see these paragraphs at the end of the article:

    "For the record, yes, Honda has two dedicated hybrids as well--the Insight and CR-Z. But they're mild hybrids, and sales of both models have been far below the company's expectations.

    "There has also been the Lexus HS 250h sedan (now discontinued in the U.S.) and the CT 200h compact hybrid hatchback.

    "But the Lexus brand isn't necessarily where fuel-efficiency minded buyers think to turn, and Ford competes directly with Toyota in the mass market segments that count."
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  18. Interesting article. I ordered a C-Max about a month ago when my dealer notified me that they could get one and wanted to know what options they should order so I helped them out. About a week ago I inquired about the order and they said that Ford was sending a C-Max out for demo and it's coming before the one I ordered. They said they could change the color but other options were set. It would appear that Ford is trying to get a number of vehicles out there just for demo and not for sale so that potential customers can try them out and if they like order one. It would seem that Ford expects to get more orders if potential customers can test out the car first. Car should be here soon and I'll report back.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

     
  19. I believe C-max is in production (but not the Energi PHEV yet) but they are being held at the plant until they meet the standards for "OK to Buy" at which point they will be shipped to the dealers. When I do a search, all the units are listed as "Dealer Order." Keep us informed. Funny comment on you helping the dealer place the order for a demo unit.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

     
  20. My dealer just confirmed the order is in my name under the X Plan. The dealer was getting a black demo and they asked my opinion on color and I suggested silver. Do you have a direct line to Ford or what? :-)
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  21. Volts went through this, oh, 2 years ago. If Ford does it right, they'll pick up sales but if they come out slow and in certain territories and demos-first, a couple more later - they'll still get killed by Prius for 3-4 years to come. If they want to do a Prius-killer, each dealership will need 10+ units on the lot.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  22. The two big areas I can NOT COMPARE the Ford to the Toyota.....I drive the Prius Plug IN and also had a Prius 2010....do you think that Toyota will stop at the 55 Mpg that the current Prius driver is enjoying....it started with the Prius getting 44 in 2003 then the Mpg went up just like the Camry was launched over the years....the PRIUS is synonymous when you hear HYBRID.....at the current sales the Prius holds in the US alone 13,000 per month in high gas priced months...the Prius Plug In gets 95 plus MPGe....if you drive and charge more you can reach 175 EASILY....I did this already...BUT you are guaranteed 95 plus....the Prius will at this rate probably exceed 60 Mpg easily if you follow the pace over the years..Prius is made lighter too.
     
    Post Reply
    -1
    Bad stuff?

     
  23. Just drove CMAX and it is much improvement over Prius with better acceleration, braking, crisper handling and roomier. The instrument panel is like Fusion HB and it takes some time to understand how it works. I currently have 2010 Escape HB. Will be doing test drive on FWY today. Stay tuned.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  24. I drove a Prius, then a Cmax. The CMax is much better in comfort, power, and fuel efficiency. I drove the Prius around town and on the freeway and averaged 32 mpg. Drove the CMax on a road that gained about 1500 feet elevation, back down, up the freeway and back and got 35.7 mpg. Bought the first and only CMax the dealer had.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement

Find Green Cars

Go!
Advertisement

Advertisement

 
© 2014 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by Homestar, LLC.