Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday that it's Escape sports utility model has qualified for Japanese government incentives for green vehicles, following criticism that the program was shutting out American automakers.
Ford Japan said Escape, a small SUV, is now part of the Japanese government cash-for-clunkers program, launched last year to boost sales during a slowdown that has hurt Japanese automakers.
Escape is the first American model in the program, which was dominated by Japanese vehicles, according to a list of eligible cars published by the Transport Ministry. Mercedes Benz and Volvo were the only foreign automakers approved by the program.
With the purchase of an Escape, customers now can receive a 250,000-yen ($2,760) tax break, the company said in a statement.
Japan began offering perks for energy-efficient vehicles such as zero or lower taxes and other green subsidies last year. Hybrids have been the biggest beneficiary of the policy, though gasoline-engine models are also eligible.
Escape was also among the top five sellers under clunkers in a similar rebate program in the U.S. last year, which helped Ford cut costly incentives and raise production.
Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford, the only of the top three U.S. automakers to escape direct government aid and bankruptcy court, reported third-quarter net income of $997 million and predicted a profitable 2011.
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