Ford Focus ST
Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally stands next to a Ford Focus ST at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. (AP PHOTO)

DETROIT (AP) - Ford Motor Co. says it will add more than 7,000 workers in the U.S. over the next two years as it begins producing several new vehicles.

The company plans to hire 4,000 manufacturing workers this year. Almost half those workers will be at the Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky that will make the new Ford Escape starting late this year. It expects to add at least 2,500 new manufacturing jobs in 2012.

Ford also plans to hire 750 engineers with expertise in batteries and other areas to work on electric vehicles.

The company said it is beginning a recruiting effort in Detroit and eight other cities.

Ford introduced three future electric and hybrid vehicles last month at the Detroit auto show, including an electric version of the Ford Focus.

Here is a closer look at the new cars and minivans Ford unveiled:

FORD C-MAX HYBRID AND C-MAX ENERGI: Ford will build two five-passenger hybrid versions of its C-Max compact minivan: a conventional hybrid and a plug-in hybrid called the Energi. Both will feature a gasoline engine, electric motor and lithium-ion batteries and are expected to go on sale in 2012.

Both will have car-type hinged rear doors, while a bigger seven-seat C-Max has sliding rear doors. The batteries fit under the floor behind their rear seat.

Ford said the hybrid will beat the Fusion hybrid sedan's EPA fuel economy rating of 41 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The hybrid will be able to travel for short distances at up to 47 mph on battery power alone.

The Energi plug-in hybrid will cover longer distances under electric power. Ford won't say how far or fast its batteries will carry it, but promises a combined gasoline and electric range of more than 500 miles.

FORD FOCUS ELECTRIC: Electric compact hatchback. The Focus Electric is Ford's first battery-powered car for consumers. Ford said its electric Focus will cover up to 100 miles on a full charge - and recharge in about half the time of the Nissan Leaf.

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The Focus' lithium-ion battery should recharge fully from drained in just three or four hours at a 240-volt outlet. The car's top speed, however, is just 84 mph. The car will feature six air bags, a push-button start and a voice-controlled navigation that displays blue butterflies to indicate how much range the batteries will have left after the Focus reaches its destination. Microsoft software will charge the car when electricity rates are lowest.

Production of the Focus Electric will begin late this year at Ford's assembly plant in Wayne, Mich., alongside a number of conventional and electrified cars and minivans. Ford is eventually expecting annual volume of 5,000 to 10,000 Focus Electrics annually. The Focus will be Ford's first battery-electric car. The automaker has more than 140,000 hybrids.

FORD C-MAX: Compact seven-seat minivan. The Ford C-Max is a compact, seven-seat minivan. It is about the size of the 1984 Plymouth Voyager that gave birth to the minivan craze. Ford's new C-Max minivan aims to offer young parents a well-equipped, fuel-efficient family hauler for around $25,000.

The C-Max - already on sale in Europe - has three rows of seats and theoretically seats seven people, but that assumes small children are riding in the rear seat. Power comes from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine or a more powerful and fuel-efficient turbocharged, direct-injection 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. A six-speed automatic transmission should help the C-Max score an EPA highway fuel economy rating above 30 mpg.

The C-Max will introduce a sensor that opens the tailgate when you wave your foot below the rear bumper - ideal for parents whose hands are full of kids, sports gear or groceries. Other available features will include blind-spot alert, automated parallel parking and a large sunroof.

Ford will build the C-Max in Wayne, just west of the automaker's headquarters in Dearborn, Mich.

2012 FORD FOCUS AND FOCUS ST: Compact sedan and hatchback. The sleek and technically advanced Focus will bring an unprecedented range of features to mainstream compact cars when it goes on sale this year.

In addition to a sleek new look and European ride and handling, the Focus can count on an EPA rating of 40 mpg on the highway, thanks to the 160-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine's direct fuel-injection and variable valve timing.

A six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission promises good performance to match that high fuel economy. The base transmission will be a five-speed manual.

The Focus will offer many features not often seen in compact cars, including blind-spot alert, automated parallel parking and a rear-view camera.

The turbocharged Focus ST cranks the excitement up several notches with around 245 horsepower and a six-speed manual transmission. The suspension and stability control were re-tuned to provide better handling and control than is customary in high-powered front-wheel drive cars.

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