DEARBORN, Mich. For the first time, an American automaker plans to sell a hybrid car for the same, lower price as its gas-powered counterpart, removing at least one obstacle for drivers who want a greener ride.

At a little more than $35,000, the 2011 Lincoln MKZ sedan won't be cheap, but the decision by Ford to match the prices of the two styles could lead competitors to follow suit with future models.

The hybrid MKZ, debuting this fall and running on both gas and electric power, will be a bargain after factoring in savings at the pump. It gets more than double the mileage of the traditional version in city driving.

While automakers won't reveal what they spend to install a hybrid system in a car, the final product usually costs several thousand dollars more than a gas-powered version of the same car.

The Lexus HS 250h, the MKZ's closest competitor, costs about $2,500 more than the Lexus IS, a similar, small, gas-powered sedan. Ford charges $8,840 more for the hybrid version of its Ford Escape SUV.

The MKZ can still make money even if Lincoln doesn't charge more for the hybrid, said Erich Merkle, president of the consulting company Autoconomy.com. Luxury cars are sold at a significant premium, he said, ensuring a profit for Ford.

Lincoln can also borrow the hybrid system from the Ford Fusion, its corporate twin, and save on development costs.

"Conventional wisdom is that the hybrid should be priced higher, but there's not really anything to say that a hybrid has to command a higher price," Merkle said.

Other automakers may not try to match Lincoln's move if it is limited to the MKZ, but they will have to take notice if Lincoln uses the same strategy with future hybrid models, said Aaron Bragman, an analyst with IHS Automotive.

John Felice, Lincoln's marketing manager, said pricing strategy is an opportunity to get buyers interested in the Lincoln brand. Even after a complete revamp of its cars in the past few years, Lincoln still lags behind other luxury brands. Lincoln sales were up 7.5 percent in the first six months of this year, compared with 17 percent industrywide.