Ford chairman and CEO Bill Ford has confirmed the automaker’s commitment to increase global hybrid production ten-fold, to approximately 250,000 units annually by 2010.

More than half of the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury lineup will have hybrid options.

A new corporate marketing and communications campaign focused on innovation will begin next autumn and four new vehicles for 2006 will run largely on ethanol, raising production of flexible fuel vehicles in 2006 to around 280,000 units.

In an employee meeting at Ford’s scientific research laboratory, Bill Ford laid out his blueprint for the company’s future – focusing on innovation as its core future strategy.

“From this point forward, innovation will be the compass by which the company sets its direction,” Ford told employees.

By 2008, Ford will have five hybrids on the road, including the Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner, Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Mazda Tribute. By 2010, the automaker plans to increase hybrid production to approximately 250,000 units annually – with more than half of the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury lineup having hybrid availability.

For the first time, Ford is offering flexible fuel technology on America’s best-selling vehicle – the F-150 pickup truck– for the 2006 model year. Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car also will offer the ethanol-fueled option in 2006.

Other plans include a new corporate marketing and communications campaign next autumn that focuses on innovation;renaming the Science Research Lab the Research and Innovation Laboratory; initiating a pilot programme that will offset the greenhouse gasses emitted in the manufacture of hybrid vehicles. The carbon offset program will pay for projects around the world that reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

“Innovation – in safety, in the environment, in design and in technological solutions to real world problems – is going to be reclaimed as our natural birthright,” Ford said.

“It will be the lens through which we view our budgets and our capital investments, our people and programmes, and the way in which we rank our most essential priorities.”