DETROIT, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Ford F.N plans to double production of hybrid F-150 pickup trucks in 2024, accelerating the automaker's pivot toward gas-electric powertrains as a hedge against reluctance among U.S. truck buyers to go all-electric.
Ford said it is tooling up to equip 20% of the best-selling model-line in the U.S. market with gas-electric powertrains in 2024. For the 2024 model year, the hybrid powertrain will be offered at the same price as a truck equipped with a six-cylinder "EcoBoost" combustion powertrain, the company said.
"We are building some upside into the production schedule," Ford Blue unit Vice President Andrew Frick told Reuters. Demand for hybrid powertrains, currently offered as a $3,300 option on certain versions of the F-150, has risen to 10% of total F-150 sales, Frick said.
If sales meet Ford's new expectations, the hybrid F-150 could become one of the three best-selling gas-electric models in the United States, vying with Toyota Motor's RAV 4 compact SUV.
Toyota also offers a hybrid system in its Tundra large pickups. About 24% of the 59,735 Tundras sold in the U.S. through June 30 were purchased with hybrid powertrains, according to the automaker's sales data. Ford sold roughly six times as many F-series trucks in the same period.
Ford revealed the redesigned, 2024 F-150 lineup on Tuesday evening at an event ahead of the Detroit auto show's opening to the public on Saturday.
Ford's pivot toward expanding the use of hybrid technology marks a sharp strategy difference with rival General Motors, which is pursuing an all-electric strategy for its future U.S. vehicle lineup, including its Chevrolet and GMC pickup models.
Ford and Toyota are leading a rebound for gas-electric hybrid powertrains in the United States.
U.S. sales of electric vehicles are accelerating, but more slowly than industry executives had expected as many consumers balk at high EV prices and concerns about driving range and charging. For pickup customers, towing a trailer sharply reduces the driving range of an electric truck.
S&P Global Mobility estimates hybrids will more than triple over the next five years, accounting for 24% of U.S. new vehicle sales in 2028.
High volume sales of hybrid trucks would help Ford comply with tougher U.S. climate emissions rules should demand for EVs such as the F-150 Lightning pickup fall short of expectations.
"Every hybrid we sell is more beneficial than a traditional ICE vehicle," Frick said, using an acronym for internal combustion engine.
(Reporting By Joe White; Editing by Sharon Singleton)
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