End of the road for Freestar
Ford decides to halt production of the minivan to concentrate on Edge, Lincoln MKX.
Scott Burgess / The Detroit News
Photo by Global Auto Index
The era of traditional minivan is over at Ford Motor Co.
The automaker confirmed Tuesday that it will not restart production of the Ford Freestar this year at its Oakville, Ontario, plant. The company had previously said it would continue making the Freestar through the 2007 model year but accelerated the decision to concentrate on building the new Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers, which are also built in Oakville.
"We suspended production in early November so we could zero in on our production of the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX," said Anne Marie Gattari, a Ford spokeswoman.
The automaker intended to resume building its minivan early this year, Gattari said, but lagging minivan sales and higher demand for the Edge and the MKX pushed Ford to discontinue its minivan production. "We're giving our customers what they want," Gattari said.
While Honda Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group and Toyota Motor Corp. continue to dominate the minivan segment, Ford has seen its minivan sales drop from more than 250,000 units in 2000 to less than 86,000 in 2005. Freestar sales have fallen 35 percent through November, according to Autodata. Ford discontinued the Mercury Monterey minivan in August.
The Freestar, like the recently discontinued Ford Taurus, had become largely a vehicle for rental fleets.
After a delayed launch, Ford began selling the Edge and MKX in December and is hustling to get as many of the crossovers to dealerships as possible as the company rolls out a massive ad campaign for the vehicles.
Ford is planning to replace its minivan next year with a new full-size crossover based on the Ford Fairlane concept. The vehicle melds the characteristics of a minivan and sport utility vehicle. It won't have sliding doors, and its styling is much bolder than a traditional minivan.
The company early last month said it expected to cut North American production by 14 percent in the first quarter of 2007. George Pipas, Ford's sales analyst, said it wasn't clear whether the Freestar's elimination would increase that figure.
"It's just too early to tell at this point," Pipas said.
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.