Ford sees the survival of the American car industry resting on the backs of advanced hybrid and battery technologies, and has called on the government to make their advancement ‘a national priority.’ The comments came from Ford’s president of the Americas, Mark Fields, who told reporters attending a conference on plug-in hybrid technology in Washington today that other governments around the world, including Japan, China, Korea, and India, are all heavily funding the research, development and deployment of plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Unlike Toyota and GM, which hope to deliver plug-in hybrids by the end of the decade, Ford is taking a more cautionary approach and doesn’t expect to launch such a vehicle for another five to ten years, reports The Detroit News.

Fields points out that for the U.S. industry to be successful, it cannot rely on batteries and other electric powertrain components imported from overseas. "Moving from imported oil to imported batteries clearly would not address this growing concern," Fields explained.

Ford is calling on the government to introduce tax breaks for plug-in hybrids as well as a $500 million fund for advanced battery research. Both options have been considered by the government but no green light has been given.

The announcement has coincided with Toyota’s promise to have its first plug-in hybrid vehicle on the market by 2010.