Ford Motor Co. said Thursday that its Fusion Hybrid had been given a 91 percent overall vehicle quality score in the 2010 U.S. Global Quality Research System report, compared to 80 percent for the Toyota Camry hybrid and 80 percent for the Nissan Altima hybrid.

The study was conducted for Ford by RDA Group of Bloomfield Hills.

The Fusion Hybrid has also been rated America’s most reliable sedan of any hybrid or conventional model by a leading consumer magazine rated America’s most reliable sedan of any hybrid or conventional model, also has taken hold with customers who give it a 91 percent “overall vehicle quality” score compared to 80 and 71 percent for the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima hybrids, respectively.

The Fusion hybrid achieves 41 mpg city — 10 mpg better than the Toyota Camry hybrid — which is helping attract 75 percent of customers from competitors, the highest conquest rate of any Ford vehicle

Ford’s battery cell reliability, the subject of much customer interest, has been tested around the clock in high-mileage, extreme-usage hybrid taxis around the country. Ford’s hybrid taxi fleet has logged more than 80 million miles in California alone during the past decade — more than quadruple the number of miles logged by Toyota’s Prius lineup. Yet, among the nearly 43 million battery cells Ford has tested or seen put to work in customer vehicles, only five issues have been documented.

This impressive quality record has surprised taxi operators who expected to experience more issues as they led the adoption of Ford’s patented hybrid technology.

“Ford’s battery technology is so strong, the odds of experiencing an issue with one of our hybrid battery cells is around 8.5 million to 1 — about the same odds as a person being struck by lightning twice,” said Chuck Gray, chief engineer for global core engineering of hybrid and electric vehicles. “Ford understands that for new technology, reliability can be a concern for customers, so we work extra hard to deliver a trouble-free product.”

The durability and longevity of batteries – which Ford has been developing and testing since the 1980s – is essential as the company expands its electrification plan, building on its leadership with five new electrified vehicles arriving in North America by 2012 and Europe by 2013.

“Our customers have put hundreds of millions of miles on our hybrids with virtually no powertrain issues, which is a testament to the quality of our batteries,” Gray said. “We have checked the battery life simulations with test data and with real-world customer vehicle data, and now we’re applying that knowledge to make the customer experience in our future products even better.”

According to research, the Fusion hybrid has also:
* Increased Ford’s favorable opinion among hybrid intenders by 20 percent between 2009 and 2011
* Achieved nearly double the percentage of sales in California compared to the gas-powered Fusion (15 vs. 8 percent)
* Attracted more than double the number of customers with postgraduate college degrees than the conventional Fusion (39 vs. 17 percent)

Ford currently designs its hybrid electric vehicles with a high-voltage nickel-metal-hydride battery. The current product represents a second-generation battery design that is 23 percent lighter than the first generation.

To achieve higher fuel efficiency, Ford’s Powersplit technology system uses two motors and a simple planetary gearset to create an electrically controlled, continuously variable transmission that allows the use of the most efficient operating points of the engine and motors. To date, Ford’s Powersplit technology has received more than 200 patents.

“The electric motors are another great story,” Gray said. “With nearly 190,000 produced, we have zero motor failures.”

At Yellow Cab in San Francisco, General Manager Jim Gillespie can’t say enough good things about the Ford Escape Hybrids as well as the Fusion Hybrids that make up more than half of his fleet. In a year, he said, his drivers will put about 80,000 to 90,000 miles on a vehicle.

“They’re incredibly durable,” he says. “We have these taxis on the street for about 21 hours; we take them off from about 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. We have them in stop-and-go traffic, heavy traffic, going up and down these hills. There was a fear at first that they wouldn’t be able to take it. But they’ve been great. The guys drive about 10- to 12-hour shifts — at about one third of their previous gas consumption.”

Ford’s decades of battery research has laid the groundwork for taking the next step in battery durability — moving from the larger, heavier nickel-metal-hydride batteries to even lighter, more powerful lithium-ion batteries.

“The lithium-ion battery not only saves us weight and precious space, it’s more efficient,” said Gray. “We need that increased capability so it can drive the vehicle much longer.”

Electrification is an important piece of Ford’s overall product sustainability strategy. Ford’s aggressive strategy includes five new electrified vehicles in North America by 2012 and in Europe by 2013.

Ford launched the Transit Connect Electric small commercial van in 2010 and in addition to Focus Electric later this year, will introduce C-MAX Hybrid, a second-generation lithium-ion battery hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid in 2012.

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