The 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid has now reached dealerships throughout the country, selling 3,182 units in October.
But Ford had an "October surprise" in store: The company sold 144 of the plug-in hybrid C-Max Energi version as well.
That car hasn't been driven by any members of the automotive media, and Ford communications staff have been vague about when it would go on sale, saying only things like "at the end of the year."
Well, October kicks off the fourth quarter of 2012, so perhaps that's what they meant.
Ford's October sales of 144 C-Max Energi hatchbacks, plus another 118 Ford Focus Electric battery-electric cars, contributed to the highest monthly sales for plug-in electric cars since modern plug-ins went on sale in December 2010.
The company issued a press release proudly touting the October sales of its hybrid C-Max, and comparing them to the Toyota Prius V wagon, which sold 2,769.
As Ford's first dedicated hybrid--a model that has no standard gasoline version--the C-Max has to compete against the best-selling Toyota Prius, now a range of four cars including a plug-in hybrid version.
One of its jobs is to lure new customers into Ford showrooms in hybrid-heavy markets like the West Coast. (Those markets notably do not include Michigan, Ford's home state.)
And according to Ford, it's working.
"One in four C-MAX Hybrids sold in October were sold in California," the release said, "with Los Angeles as the best-selling region and San Francisco following in second."
"Initial conquest data show that more than 70 percent of C-MAX Hybrid buyers traded in a competitive model or added it without trading in another vehicle," Ford continued.
"And one third of C-MAX Hybrid customers in October said they cross-shopped the Toyota Prius and Prius V."
The Toyota Prius line as a whole sold 16,774 units in October, and Toyota also sold hybrid models of several of its conventional cars as well, for a total of 20,273 hybrids last month.
2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2012
Ford's total of 4,612 hybrids sold in October, while its best month ever, still puts it in second place in U.S. hybrid sales overall--but decisively ahead of Honda, which sold 948 hybrids throughout the month.
The one remaining question about the C-Max Hybrid is its real-world gas mileage. Green Car Reports has now done two short tests of Ford's latest hybrid (here and here) and has not come close to its rated efficiency of 47 mpg combined.
Real-world mileage is likely to be much in the public eye with Hyundai and Kia having to restate their window-sticker figures and offer refunds to customers who bought cars with higher MPG ratings than were justified--due to errors in the EPA testing it submitted for certification, Hyundai says.
While the 144 C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid sales in October came as a surprise, Ford notes that the car is now on sale at Ford dealerships that have been certified to sell plug-in cars in half the states in the country.
Its role is to compete head-to-head with the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, which has a lower electric range--6 to 11 miles--but carries the trusted Prius name.