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Hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of Ford’s C-MAX will start rolling off production lines at a Valencia, Spain plant for the European market in 2013, the automaker announced Monday. Ford expects to invest up to $36 million in the effort.

Hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of Ford Motor’s five-seater C-MAX model will start rolling off production lines at a Valencia, Spain plant and onto the European market in 2013, the automaker announced this morning. As part of a total $410 million investment planned for the Valencia C-MAX program over the next three years, Ford expects to invest up to $36 million for the hybrid and plug-in portion of the project — with an as yet undetermined amount of aid from the national and regional governments.

According to Ford, the vehicles from this plant will represent the automaker’s first hybrids on the European market. For the U.S. market, Ford says the Valencia plant will also crank out gas versions of the Grand C-MAX seven-seater starting in 2011.

The automaker cites interest in giving customers “greater choice to suit their specific driving and living environments,” as the reason for building the two alt-drive versions, both hybrid and plug-in hybrid. John Fleming, chairman and CEO for Ford of Europe and executive vice president for the automaker’s Global Manufacturing and Labour Affairs, predicted in a statement Monday that the plug-in hybrid model, “might better suit those customers who do the majority of their driving in city and other urban environments.”

Analyst John Gartner of Pike Research anticipates sales of electrified vehicles (including all-electric and plug-in hybrid models) will reach only 222,000 in all of Western Europe in 2015. By comparison, Gartner has told us the firm anticipates China will represent the largest market for electrified vehicles in that year, with sales reaching 310,000 vehicles.

Ford’s move to create plug-in and hybrid versions based off an existing platform (rather than having a “dedicated” electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle) comes as part of the automaker’s recently revised approach to supply and demand. “We don’t want to be in the game of trying to shove them out the door regardless of what the demand is,” Ford chairman Bill Ford explained at an event last month.

Having a common platform across its global markets for the Ford Focus, for example (an existing model slated to come out with an electric version in 2011), Ford said the company can easily adjust the mix of electric vs. gas Focus models rolling off the production lines depending on how the market develops. Said Ford, “You can completely flex up [production] if the demand is there.”

Image courtesy of Ford Motor

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By Josie Garthwaite

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