Ford has started volume production of its second hybrid vehicle at its Kansas City assembly plant.

The new Mercury Mariner hybrid SUV is part of the company's commitment to increasing hybrid production 10-fold to 250,000 units annually by the end of the decade.

Lean and flexible manufacturing processes and specially trained employees at the plant allow the hybrids to be built on the same production line as conventional Mariner, Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute SUVs, which share many common parts. Mariner production was pulled ahead by a year as part of Ford's stepped-up hybrid commitment.

The Mariner derivative joins the Escape Hybrid as two of five hybrids Ford will have on the road in the next three years. Ford is the only American automaker with a hybrid on the road and was first global automaker (just) to offer a hybrid SUV though Toyota has since launched its Lexus RX400h.

The Kansas City plant accommodates installation of unique hybrid components at normal line speed. Among the components are a temperature management unit, electric battery pack, in-dash electrical outlet, regenerative braking system, power cables, electronic power assist steering, DC-to-DC converter, Atkinson-cycle engine and eCVT transmission.

Initial production of the hybrid Mariner began in October.  Full-scale production vehicles are now beginning to arrive at dealers.

To assemble the hybrids, employees completed a special training course covering how to install and handle hybrid-specific components, such as the electric battery pack, cooling system, regenerative braking system and the instrument cluster.

The Kansas plant opened in 1953 and builds Ford F-150 trucks as well as the small SUVs.

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