That is, until now. Ford has introduced the Escape Hybrid designed with the American consumer in mind.
The vehicle is creating lots of interest locally, said Roger Elledge II with Sikeston Motor Co., 1030 S. Main St. The first hybrid to arrive on the lot is already sold and a silver Ford Escape Hybrid has lots of lookers, he said.
"We have had a lot of interest in the 2006 models. A lot of people were talking about it even before it arrived," said Elledge. Technology what it is today, some of those interested walked through the front doors while others simply e-mailed their inquiries to the local dealership.
While there have been other hybrids developed by automakers, the Ford Escape is the first full hybrid, Elledge said. The vehicle can run off its gas engine, the electric battery or both.
And the fact that the Ford Escape is an American-made hybrid, Elledge said adds to its attraction.
He explained Ford sees the Escape filling a niche market. Already well-known for their SUVs and trucks, Ford's Escape Hybrid fits into the group. "It has all the cargo room and the functionality of a regular SUV. You can haul people or go off-road and still get good fuel economy," he said.
The questions about the vehicle are numerous. One of the first Elledge said is whether the vehicle has to be plugged in at night to recharge. The sales representative explains the battery recharges as the driver applies the brakes during the normal driving process.
Elledge has tested the car on his own and admitted he was amazed by how quiet the engine operates. "When you come to a stoplight it almost feels like the car has shut down, but hit the gas and boom it takes off," he said.
Describing the car as "user-friendly," Elledge explained the hybrid engine is automatic, efficiently using the battery or the gas engine to maximize mileage. An energy/navigation system on the dash keeps the driver informed of the efficiency of the hybrid's operation.
The vehicle gets 36 miles to the gallon in town while the mileage rating is 31 on the highway. A tank of gas can take a driver 400 to 500 miles. The battery is located behind the back seat in the floor so there is no loss of cargo space. A nickel-metal-hydride battery, Elledge noted it is recyclable, making it another feature for those with environmental concerns.
Just about every option available on the standard Escape is found on the hybrid - from leather interior to heated seats to front-wheel or four-wheel drive. The hybrid does have a three-year or 36,000 mile Ford warranty along with the an extended eight-year hybrid warranty.
There is a price difference. Elledge said the standard Escape is priced in the mid $20,000 range while the hybrid edges to just under $30,000. "It is not a huge difference. You are paying more up front but when you go that extra 100 or 200 miles on a tank of fuel that evens out over the life of the vehicle."
With the new technology has come some new things to master. The salesmen have had to learn all the hybrid can offer drivers and the Sikeston Motor technicians have learned how to keep the vehicles in working order. Elledge said the techncians at Sikeston Motor Co. have completed some classes over the computer as well as attending school. Also the local business has invested in the new tools needed to keep the hybrids in working order.
The Ford Escape Hybrid along with Mercury's Mariner Hybrid, which should arrive soon at Ford Motor Co., are just a continuation of improvements being made by automakers, Elledge predicted as consumers demand better gas mileage and improved efficiency. On down the road, Ford Motor Co. is planning to offer hybrids for the Ford Fusion and the Mercury Milan, he added.
The changing technology is exciting, Elledge said. "I love it. It is always neat, especially when get something as a new product comes out."