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Old 10-14-2002, 08:53   #1 (permalink)
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Ford adding small rear-cabin doors to regular cab F-150 for 2004

By MARY CONNELLY
Automotive News
DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. is adding small rear-cabin doors to the regular cab model of the redesigned 2004 Ford F-150.

As a result, the standard two-door pickup, an automotive staple for decades, will be no more at Ford.

The standard feature will add production costs to the redesigned F series, at a time when the company is trying desperately to shave costs from new vehicles. But it will be a part of the company's effort to offer much-needed fresh products to aid its turnaround. Ford will call the feature an "access panel," according to a Ford source familiar with the model. The panels, which Ford will tout as an industry first, are designed to make it easier to stow items behind the seats

"It opens like a door, but we are not calling it a door," the source said.

The access panels will be about half the size of the doors used on F-150 SuperCab models and will open in the same manner - hinged at the rear, the source said. But the access panel will not have glass.

"It looks like a regular cab," the source said.

Ford decided to add the panels because the cabin is slightly larger in the redesigned regular-cab models, the source said. Ford is redesigning the F-150 for the first time since the 1997 model year.

The 2004 F series will offer five interiors, Ford President Nick Scheele confirmed last week. The features are designed to appeal to a range of consumers from tradesmen to luxury buyers.

The assembly-line complexity of the redesigned pickup makes the unit more costly to assemble than its predecessor, Scheele said.

In April, Michael Bruynesteyn, auto analyst with Prudential Securities, criticized Ford for plans to deliver redesigned F-series models whose cost exceeds current models. In contrast, General Motors reduced costs by $2,000 per unit in a 1999 redesign of its large pickups, Bruynesteyn said.

GM's cost advantage could lead the automaker to drive up the incentive race in the pickup segment, he said, forcing Ford to spend to defend its new model.
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