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Cost-cutter's ax won't slash Ford interiors; F-150, Five Hundred to feature new look

By RICK KRANZ | Automotive News

DETROIT - The upscale look of the inside of Ford Motor Co.'s future vehicles will escape the cost-cutter's sword, vows the company's chief designer, J Mays.

"We are not going to cut costs on the interiors," he said. "We worked too hard over the last five years to screw this up. Over my dead body."

Saving money is a key issue at Ford. The automaker has 1,000 engineers working to squeeze an average of $700 per vehicle in material costs from every vehicle built in North America by mid-decade.

"We tripled the investment in interiors. We're putting money where the customer can see it, feel it. And we are going to continue to do that," Mays said at the Detroit auto show.

He said the 2004 Ford F series "is a strong testament to that." The redesigned pickup will be offered in five distinct models and interior trims - XL, STX, XLT, FX4 and Lariat.

The plush, leather-trimmed interior of the top-of-the-line 2004 F-150 Lariat could appear in a Lincoln or Cadillac brochure. The Lariat features include an in-dash message center, electronic temperature control and power memory seats and pedals. The top of the instrument cluster and center console contain finely stitched surfaces. Cream-colored gauges ringed in chrome complement chrome-ringed air registers.

"I am bullish about having the best interiors in the United States," he said. "You don't cut costs out of individual products. You cut cost out of the system through the complexity of too many architectures, too many pieces that nobody sees except the engineers.

"We still have a lot of slop in the system. ... And the more slop we take out of the system, then the more we can spend the money on the customer rather than spending it on mistakes."

At the New York auto show last year, Mays said Ford Division's new flagship sedan, the 2005 Five Hundred, would have the look of a German premium sedan and that the interior would be trimmed in brushed aluminum and wood trim.

Front- and all-wheel-drive models will be offered.

The Five Hundred will be priced to compete with the Toyota Avalon, which ranges from $26,330 to $30,790, including freight.

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.....
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