Ford plans to build “tens of thousands” of hybrid electric Escapes, said Prabhakar Patil, chief engineer for the Ford Escape Hybrid, at an SAE Congress session yesterday. The hybrid SUV will be introduced next year.

Ford also issued a positive statement following up JD Power’s latest consumer survey pointing to high and growing interest in hybrid electric vehicles (reported on just-auto yesterday at

The statement attributed to Prabhakar Patil, said: “We are encouraged with the results of this customer survey showing strong potential for hybrid electric vehicles. Our own customer research shows similar enthusiasm, especially for a hybrid SUV. When Ford’s Escape Hybrid SUV is introduced in 2003 it will deliver nearly 40 mpg fuel economy in a no-compromise vehicle with the same driving performance and features that have made the Escape a top-seller.”