Last month, Ford Authority reported that the highly anticipated Ford Escape PHEV would enter production in January of 2021 after not one, but two delays. What was unclear at that time, however, was what, exactly, caused these delays. Now, we’ve learned why Ford has pushed back its Escape PHEV launch once again, thanks to a new report from Automotive News.
“We’re moving production to next year while we investigate what happened to the Kuga in Europe,” said Ford North America Product Communications manager Mike Levine. “None have been sold in the U.S.”
Levine is referring to the Ford Kuga PHEV’s stop-sale and recall that was issued back in August after a handful of models caught fire. At the time, Ford said that it believed the fires were likely caused by the overheating of the vehicle’s high-voltage batteries caused by a lack of ventilation. Up to 27,000 Kuga plug-in hybrid models are believed to be affected by the problem.
Just this past March, Ford came to an agreement to reimburse 56 South African 2014-2017 Kuga owners whose vehicles had also caught fire. That problem was traced to a failure in the cooling system of Ford 1.6L EcoBoost I-4 models manufactured in Spain specifically for the South African market.
The Kuga is a rebadged version of the Ford Escape on sale in global markets outside of the United States, and rides on the same Ford C2 Platform as the Escape, Ford Focus, Lincoln Corsair, and the forthcoming Ford Bronco Sport.
The Escape plug-in hybrid was originally scheduled to enter production at the Ford Louisville Assembly Plant this spring, but the COVID-19 pandemic-induced shutdown delayed that until the summer.
Meanwhile, Ford Escape sales in the U.S. dropped nearly 23 percent in Q3 and are down 32 percent year-to-date. Ford’s vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service, Mark LaNeve, recently attributed that performance to low inventory levels. “We have some availability problems,” he said. “We’re managing those vehicles for long-term health from a residual-value standpoint and not highly discounting them compared to the previous generation.”