Ford stakes future on new Futura, the Taurus replacement.
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
By Mark Truby / The Detroit News
NEW YORK -- In the 1980s, Ford Motor Co. rode the Taurus sedan back to prosperity. Now the automaker is hoping a new family sedan can help speed its financial recovery.
Ford's new mid-size car, dubbed the Futura, is set to go into production in 2005.
It will replace the Taurus as Ford's bread-and-butter family car and be the basis for a flurry of new mid-size cars and sport-utility vehicles over the next three years.
Ford engineers plans to use the Futura's architecture to build up to 10 new vehicles representing annual sales of 800,000 units across its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands.
"It's critical for Ford to get some new products out there on the market," said Mike Wall, an automotive analyst for CSM Worldwide in Lansing. "This is a hugely important program for Ford."
Besides the Futura sedan, Ford is studying other variations that may include a mid-sized sport wagon, a hatchback and crossover utility vehicles.
"This is a lot of product ... that we think is critically important to our turnaround," Ford President Nick Scheele said this week.
The Futura is expected to fill a void created when Ford discontinued the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique several years ago. It will also help buttress Ford's slice of the U.S. passenger car market.
Ford is renewing efforts to strengthen its passenger car lineup following the launch of the redesigned F-150 full-size pickup this summer.
First out of the gate will be the large Ford Five-Hundred sedan, which goes into production in 2004 at a Chicago assembly plant. Alongside the Five-Hundred, Ford will build the Freestyle, a roomy car-based utility vehicle.
The Futura, which shares basic underpinnings with the new Mazda6 sedan, will be positioned above the smaller Focus and below the larger Five-Hundred in Ford's car lineup. It faces stiff competition from cars that include the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Volkswagen Passat.
Ford has been losing customers to those import brands, partially because it hasn't invested resources to reengineer the Taurus sedan in several years. The Accord, Camry and Altima all have been redesigned in recent years.
The Taurus, once America's best-selling car, is now primarily used for rental cars and other fleet customers. It's expected to be phased out within a few years, but may coexist for a short time with the Futura.
Ford has not said where it will build the Futura.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....