LOS ANGELES – Ford Motor Co. won’t follow in the footsteps of General Motors Corp., which plans to bring a plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle to market.

Instead, Ford will concentrate on refining its current full HEV system, an executive here says.

“We test everything, including, in our case, plug-in hybrids,” says Cisco Codina, Ford group vice president-North America marketing, sales and service. “However, we think the consumer is tickled pink with the (current) full hybrid.

“So while I won’t discount the fact (plug-ins) may have a play in the future, (full hybrid) technology is most popular today with our consumers.”

In Wednesday’s keynote address at the LA Auto Show, CEO Rick Wagoner confirmed GM is working on a PHEV Saturn Vue but didn’t announce a timetable for bringing the vehicle to market. Insiders tell Ward’s it isn’t likely to debut before 2009.

Ford is unveiling the redesigned ’08 Escape Hybrid here and plans to begin sales of the revamped model in first-quarter 2007.

Ford says it will sell the new Escape Hybrid for less than the current model, but Codina does not reveal pricing. He notes the ’08 Escape HEV has the same powertrain as the current model, but has improved software that provides a more seamless shift from gas to electric power. However, fuel economy goes unchanged on the new model.

Ford also plans to make more hybrid announcements soon, Codina says.

Through October, Ford has sold 16,304 Escape HEVs, up 23.5%, while sales for the standard Escape are down 6.7% to 132,666, Ward’s data shows.

Meanwhile, Codina says there is little cross-shopping between the Escape and its Mercury Mariner twin.

“I would say it’s 80% conquest (sales) for the Mariner,” he says. “Mariner is a younger buyer, and it skews more to female and more to a metro type of buyer.

“Escape has more males into it. It’s bolder in design, and we try to differentiate it,” he adds. “So it actually makes a pretty good complement between the two of them.”

Codina says he doubts the delay of the much anticipated Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX cross/utility vehicles will impact sales or has raised quality concerns among would-be buyers. Ford says it is delaying their launch in order to refine assembly processes at the Oakville, Ont., Canada, plant in order to ensure quality.

“I don’t think it’s caused any problems for consumers, because they haven’t had one,” he says. “We’ve contacted our dealers that have retail orders, and they are fine.”

The ’08 Lincoln MKS will get Ford’s new 3.7L V-6, Codina says, but he does not confirm whether the Lincoln MKX CUV will offer the engine, as is widely suspected.

Ford also sees no need to follow GM’s 100,000-mile (162,000-km) powertrain warranty.

“We don’t see any residual benefit out of that,” he says. “We think most consumers in this country trade their Fords every 4.5 years, and they drive 10,000 to 12,000 miles (16,093-19,316 km) a year. That’s 60,000 miles (96,558 km). So they’re fully covered with our warranty. We think that’s the sweet spot.”

Codina says Ford still is deciding whether it will stay in the compact pickup market after Ranger production ends in 2008, with the closing of the Twin Cities (MN) plant.

scanderson@wardsauto.com