Ford to Quadruple Plug-in Dealers

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Ford announced today it will sell plug-in vehicles across all 50 states by spring, with more than 900 dealers certified to sell the cars — about a third of all Ford showrooms. That's up from 200 dealers in November 2012, which were largely in California and New York.

Ford's plug-in stable includes the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid and an all-electric version of the Focus. A plug-in Fusion Energi hybrid will arrive soon: "We have said that we would start sales of Fusion Energi early in 2013, but have not specified a particular month," Ford sales analyst Erich Merkle told Cars.com.

Dealer certification involves installing at least two charging stations and training dealer staff on EVs, with demo versions of the C-Max Energi and Focus Electric available at all times.

With sparse dealers, Ford sold 419 plug-in cars in January — 338 C-Max Energi plug-ins and a scant 81 Focus Electric hatchbacks. In comparison, the automaker moved 5,530 conventional hybrids during the month.

How much does availability play into sales? Ford has just 913 C-Max Energi and Focus Electric hatchbacks in Cars.com new-car inventory — just 0.3% of all new Fords on Cars.com. Toyota only sells its Prius Plug-In across 15 states, but there are 1,247 Prius Plug-In hatchbacks in national inventory. That's 0.7% of all new Toyotas. Not surprisingly, the automaker sold 874 Prius Plug-In hybrids in January. That's more than the Nissan Leaf (650) but fewer than the Chevrolet Volt (1,140).

None of the four automakers offer significant cash incentives to purchase their plug-ins, but lease deals vary and so do federal tax credits. Battery capacity determines the credits, and the Focus Electric, Leaf and Volt are eligible for a full $7,500. The Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi are good for $3,751 while the Prius Plug-in gets the minimum $2,500.

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