For the past decade, Toyota has unquestionably been the champion of the hybrid electric car, thanks to its Prius family of hybrids. 

But with a tough new ad campaign about to launch for the all-new 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Detroit’s blue oval wants to steal that hybrid crown. 

The gloves are off. But who will win?

In its new ad campaign, Ford has nominated to directly compare itself with the established Prius, using a series of comically-drawn shorts.

As USA Today reports, one of the first C-Max Hybrid ads to air shows Mr. Linea, a classic, Italian line-drawn character from the 1970s, getting frustrated with the lack of power of his 2012 Toyota Prius V wagon.

The cartoonist’s hand--a standard feature in every Mr.Linea cartoon--then draws a 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid. 

Mr. Linea, grateful of the new car, gets in, speeding past the very cars which had overtaken him while he was driving his Prius V.

Ford’s message isn’t hard to spot: It wants the C-Max Hybrid to be seen as faster, more fun, and better to drive than a Toyota Prius; wagon or otherwise.

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

Interestingly, Ford isn’t comparing the C-Max Hybrid with the 2012 Toyota Prius Liftback. Instead, it wants to compare its first hybrid hatch with the larger Prius V.

That’s possibly because the Prius Liftback, while smaller in cargo volume than the C-Max, beats the C-Max Hybrid’s 47mpg all-round EPA rating with 51 mpg city, 48 mpg highway and 50 mpg gas mileage figures. 

Its base model 2012 Prius Two, while less equipped than the C-Max Hybrid, is cheaper too.

Meanwhile, the more expensive, larger Prius V, which starts at $27,280, is closer to the C-Max Hybrid in terms of passenger volume, gas mileage and load-carrying ability. 

“It’s a direct comparison,” Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president in charge of global marketing. “Toyota has done such a good job with hybrids. So it makes sense for us to compare C-Max to Prius.”

On paper, the 1.8-liter Prius V isn’t as powerful as the 2.0-liter C-Max Hybrid. Despite a slightly large load-carrying capability, it also more expensive, and lacks some of the standard tech features found in the Ford. 

2012 Toyota Prius V

2012 Toyota Prius V

These include Ford’s well-known MyFord Touch, and a fully automatic, handsfree tailgate.

Those facts might give Ford an edge on paper, but with ten years of experience making Hybrids, Toyota is a tough act to follow. 

There’s another problem too: the C-Max doesn’t directly compete with either the Prius Liftback or the Prius V. It sits somewhere in between the two models. 

And while the C-Max itself provides a nicer driving experience and has a more conventional interior than either Prius model, the resale value of the C-Max remains an unknown. 

Toyota’s hold on the hybrid marketplace is strong--200,000 Prius Liftbacks and 60,000 Prius V wagons are expected to be sold in the U.S. during 2012--but the cheaper, more user-friendly C-Max may win it fans among regular American car buyers who want a normal car that gets great gas mileage. 

Who will win? It’s time to let the buyers decide.


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