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Old 07-01-2002, 06:14   #1 (permalink)
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Ford considering next-generation Mondeo as Taurus replacement

Automaker also will try to compete against Koreans


By MARK RECHTIN
Automotive News

LOS ANGELES -- Ford Motor Co. may replace the Ford Taurus with a version of the next-generation Mondeo from Europe, COO Nick Scheele said.

He also confirmed that Ford will penetrate the entry-level car market to compete against the Koreans.

In a meeting with journalists on June 22, Scheele would not confirm that the Mondeo is coming. But he noted that the Five Hundred sedan will move up in size and price above the Taurus. The Five Hundred is due in showrooms in 2004.

When the Five Hundred is in the lineup, Scheele is considering putting a Mondeo-based car between the Focus and the Five Hundred instead of the Taurus. "We've got to have one," he said. "It feeds into our cycle plan."

An auto industry analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Ford is accepting bids from suppliers for a Mondeo made to U.S. specifications, expected in 2005 as a 2006 model.

The current-generation Mondeo does not meet U.S. crash test requirements. Changing the model's front end to comply would be costly and could ruin its design, so Ford is waiting for a complete vehicle redesign to bring it to the United States.

Disappointing sales marked Ford's attempt to sell Mondeo-based cars, called the Contour and Mystique, in the United States. They were dropped in 2000.

Scheele said the Contour and Mystique failed because the Taurus' price had been reduced to compete against the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The Contour and Mystique in turn were priced below the Taurus, which eroded profits on the high-content cars.

J Mays, Ford Motor's vice president of design, has said the Five Hundred will cost about the same as a Toyota Avalon, which starts at $26,330, including destination.

A car slotted below the Five Hundred with a wider range of engines could compete more effectively against the Accord and Camry, Scheele said. The current Europe-market Mondeo offers three four-cylinder engines, one V-6 and a turbodiesel.

At the entry end of the car lineup, Ford will bring in a Brazilian-built version of the Fusion all-activity vehicle.

The Europe-market edition is being assembled in Cologne, Germany, but the North American model is not expected to arrive until mid-2004. It will be modified significantly from the Europe-market version, which will have a 1.1-liter engine and a five-speed manual transmission.

The American-market version most likely will have a 1.8-liter or 2.0-liter engine and an optional automatic transmission, Scheele said.

"If we duck taking on the entry level, we lose the customer," he said. "If you lose the first-time buyer, you have a hard time getting them back."
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