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Old 08-03-2006, 06:09   #1 (permalink)
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US:Ford Future Products Update

Ford Future Products Update
Way Forward redirects automaker's product plans

By AMY WILSON | AUTOMOTIVE NEWS
AutoWeek

Plans by Model Year
2007
FORD
Edge crossover debuts, Expedition re-engineered & restyled, Explorer Sport Trac redesigned

Lincoln
MKZ (formerly MKS sedan debuts Zephyr) freshened, MKX crossover debuts, Navigator restyled, re-engineered

2008
Ford
Focus reskinned, Five Hundred freshened, Escape reskinned & re-engineered, Freestyle freshened, F-250,F-350 Super Duty pickups redesigned, E-Series vans freshened

Mercury
Montego freshened, Mariner reskinned & re-engineered

2009
Ford
Fusion freshening likely, Corwn Victoria freshened, Minivan alternative debuts, Explorer freshened, F-150 restyled & re-engineered

Mercury
Milan freshening likely, Grand Marquis freshened

Lincoln
MKS sedan debuts, Minivan alternative debuts (or 2010), Mark LT restyled & re-engineered, MKZ freshening likely

2010
Ford
Small sedan likely debuts, Small crossover likely debuts, Possible Five Hundred restyling (or 2011), Mustang restyled

Mercury
Possible Montego restyling (or 2011)


DETROIT - Ford Motor Co.'s Way Forward restructuring plan is taking its toll on product planning.

A number of vehicle programs have been changed, delayed or even dropped since Mark Fields, president of the Americas, and his team began tackling the troubled U.S. business last fall.

Ford officials say the shifts are aimed at getting bolder designs and the right products to the market faster. But outside sources are skeptical. Some industry analysts say Ford is still playing follow the leader when it comes to true product innovation and stylish design.

Fields promises that the days of building a vehicle for 10 years or more with just minimal changes are over. For example, the current-generation Ford Ranger pickup has been marketed with little change since the 1993 model year.

By 2008, the average age of Ford's U.S. products will drop from 4.4 years to 3.2 years, the company says. Ford product chief Derrick Kuzak says adding new vehicles will account for the drop, not cutting older ones. On July 20, Ford CEO Bill Ford said Fields and his team "have intensified their efforts, with an emphasis on reducing costs and accelerating product development."

For the 2007-10 model years, Ford plans to roll out a portfolio of vehicles smaller than the Focus. Ford also plans two vehicles to replace its conventional minivans. Both categories give Ford an opportunity to establish styling benchmarks.

But the question is whether those vehicles will arrive soon enough to gain share in those segments.

On the truck side, Ford vows to give up no ground to the swelling competition, especially Toyota's redesigned, full-sized 2007 Tundra pickup. Engineering upgrades to its flagship F series and new powertrains are coming at a faster pace than in the past.

Ford Motor's U.S. vehicle plans for the 2007-10 model years - compiled from suppliers, analysts and company sources - follow. Not all programs have been given final approvals and could change.

The Ford Fairlane concept is expected to influence the styling of the automaker’s minivan alternative, arriving for the 2009 model year.

Lincoln's front-drive MKS sedan will be added to the lineup for the 2009 model year. It won't look much different from this concept car, shown at the 2006 Detroit auto show.


CARS
B-segment vehicles

Ford has talked for years about offering a range of vehicles smaller than the Focus. In European auto jargon, such vehicles are commonly known as B-segment vehicles.

Supplier and industry sources say three vehicles are likely for the 2010 and 2011 model years. They probably will be based on Mazda's B2E vehicle platform and likely sold under the Ford brand.

The first, code-named B409, would be a small sedan. The second vehicle is likely to be a five-door crossover model code-named B474. Both are penciled in for the 2010 model year.

A third vehicle, code-named B475, is expected to be a small minivan, debuting for the 2011 model year.

All three models would be assembled in Ford's Cuautitlan, Mexico, plant. Total annual volume for the three is estimated at 170,000 units.

North American design chief Peter Horbury does not rule out a less costly approach - simply rebadging and importing a vehicle from outside North America. If Ford chooses that option, a B-segment car could be available for U.S. sale in 2007 or 2008.

At one point, production of the B-segment vehicles was slated for 2007. That was canceled. Earlier this year, Fields said the vehicles are three or four years away.

Even after unveiling several concepts, the plan is a work in progress. Final approval has not been given.

One key issue that Ford executives are wrestling with is price: Should the vehicles be entry-level models like the Chevrolet Aveo; or should they be more premium, akin to the Mini? Or should the range hit both targets?

Ford Focus

Ford will reskin the Focus for the 2008 model year. The front-end styling centers on the three-bar horizontal grille that is destined to become the brand's signature styling cue. That grille first appeared on the 2006 Fusion.

A 3-mpg increase in fuel economy is expected. The once-popular wagon may be dropped at the end of the 2007 model year.

The Focus debuted for the 2000 model year, which begs the question: What's next?

Ford decided not to adapt its C1-based European Focus, introduced in 2004, for the United States because the new platform is too expensive. But analysts expect the next-generation U.S. Focus to be derived from the European model, bowing sometime early in the next decade.

Ford product chief Kuzak also has signaled that the next-generation U.S. Focus will evolve from the European model. By that time the European Focus will have been re-engineered, and a lower-cost version for the United States could be developed.

The car could be built in a new, low-cost assembly plant that Ford is planning, possibly in the southern United States or Mexico. At that time, Ford also could add a version of the Focus C-Max mini-minivan sold in Europe.

Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ, Mercury Milan

Ford targets safety in the 2007 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan. Side seat-mounted and head curtain airbags are added as standard equipment. All-wheel drive is a new option.

Both cars are expected to offer Ford's new 3.5-liter V-6 engine later this decade, possibly as early as the 2008 model year. A freshening for the Fusion, Milan and MKZ is planned, probably for the 2009 model year.

Despite backpedaling by the auto-maker on its overall hybrid plans, hybrid versions of the Fusion and Milan are expected for the 2009 model year.

The 2007 Lincoln MKZ shares its platform with the Fusion and Milan. The MKZ was called the Zephyr for the 2006 model year. The 2007 MKZ adds the automaker's new 263-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and optional awd. The 2007 model's grille and front fascia are freshened. Side and curtain airbags were standard on the Zephyr.

Ford Five Hundred, Lincoln MKS, Mercury Montego

The Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego add freshened front-end treatments early in 2007, probably April, for the 2008 model year. The Five Hundred, panned for bland design when it debuted in 2004, will get its version of Ford's three-bar grille, a la the Fusion. Both cars will offer Ford's new 3.5-liter V-6. The continuously variable transmission now available is expected to be dropped, possibly at the end of the 2007 model year.

The Five Hundred and Montego are likely to be restyled for the 2010 or 2011 model year.

Lincoln's new sedan will be the MKS, a car based on the concept that debuted this year at the Detroit auto show. Production is expected to begin in early 2008 for the 2009 model year at Ford's Chicago assembly plant. But Ford might try to pull the program forward to late 2007, given that the Lincoln Town Car likely will be dropped from the product line, sources said.

The MKS is based on the D3 platform, which also underpins the Five Hundred and Montego. The MKS will be available with awd and a six-speed automatic transmission. The vehicle was expected to debut with a 4.4-liter V-8, but that engine may be pushed back to 2010. MKS production volume is forecast at around 50,000 units.

A larger Lincoln sedan, code-named E386, appears to have been axed from the product plan. That sedan was slated to be developed on a stretched version of the D3 platform.

Ford Crown Victoria, Lincoln Town Car, Mercury Grand Marquis

The fate of the ancient Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis is becoming clearer.

Suppliers are working on some chassis upgrades for the 2009 model year, although cosmetic changes are expected to be limited to a freshening. Ford has told the Canadian Auto Workers that it will invest $200 million in the vehicles, which are assembled in St. Thomas, Ontario. The vehicles date back to 1978.

Ford also has told the CAW that it will reduce production at the plant to one shift beginning in the 2007 calendar year and that the Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis will be phased out somewhere in the 2010 to 2012 time frame. In the meantime, expect the bulk of Crown Victoria sales to continue to be police cars and taxicabs.

The platform is shared with the Lincoln Town Car. Lincoln's sedan likely will be dropped in the 2007 calendar year when Ford idles the Wixom, Mich., assembly plant, where it is produced. Ford has told the CAW that it will not move the Town Car to St. Thomas once Wixom closes. It is unlikely that production of the Town Car would be moved to any other plant.

Rear-drive sedans

Ford has two options for developing a rear-wheel-drive sedan for the United States. But it is not clear that a rwd sedan program is on the horizon.

Ford could develop a rwd sedan from its Mustang platform or from a platform being developed in Australia, sources have said. In recent weeks, the case for Australia has strengthened.

Ford announced in May that it is spending $1.35 billion to develop two platforms there, including a rwd car platform to be used for the next-generation Australian Ford Falcon. That car is expected to arrive in 2008. Left- and right-hand-drive vehicles are expected to be developed for Australia and export markets.

In an interview that appeared on the Australian Web site drive.com.au, Ford of Australia President Tom Gorman said his unit aims to be an exporter "at a time when the U.S. is looking at where it's going with its large rear-wheel-drive platform." But Gorman, former North American sales manager for the Ford brand, noted that export volume ambitions for the Australian unit are modest - "15,000 to 30,000, not 100,000."

Product chief Kuzak said the next-generation Falcon platform is available as an option that Ford's U.S. product planners could tap. But outside of the Mustang, the emphasis of car development in this market is on front-wheel-drive platforms with awd capability, he said.

Ford Mustang; Lincoln, Mercury coupes

The Ford Mustang will be restyled for the 2010 model year, one year later than previously planned.

The Mustang is likely to get a bigger engine developed under the Hurricane program. The main Hurricane engine is expected to have a 6.2-liter displacement, but a 5.8-liter is also possible. Ford could revive the Boss name to brand the engines.

Ford has pledged to keep the Mustang nameplate fresh by doing special versions each model year. The 2007 model year marks the debut of the Shelby GT500 coupe and convertible, powered by a 500-hp, 5.4-liter V-8. Production will be limited to about 9,000 units.

Designers have worked on a Lincoln coupe based on the Mustang platform. Planners also have considered a Mercury version of the Mustang. But it is unclear whether either vehicle will make it into the product plan.
Lincoln says the large chrome grille on the 2007 Navigator is a statement of power.


TRUCKS
Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner

The Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner crossovers will be re-engineered and reskinned for the 2008 model year. The models are expected to debut in January. The current engine family will be carried over to the new models. Changes include a new interior and exterior styling tweaks such as more chrome accents.

Ford reduced prices on the hybrid versions of the crossovers for the 2007 model year and said it will do more for the 2008 model to narrow the price difference between the hybrid- and gasoline-powered models.

Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX

The 2007 Ford Edge and the Lincoln MKX are the newest crossovers in the Ford family. Both debut late this fall. The crossovers - based on the CD3 architecture that also underpins the Fusion, Milan and MKZ - will be built in Ford's Oakville, Ontario, assembly plant.

The two-row, five-passenger crossovers are among the most crucial launches of the 2007 model year for Ford. Both vehicles will use Ford's new 265-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine. All-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission will be available.

The Edge and MKX are scheduled for Job 1 in mid-October and are expected to be on sale by the end of November. Ford aims for 120,000 annual Edge sales.

Ford Freestyle

After much internal debate over its future, the Ford Freestyle is scheduled for a freshening early next year for the 2008 model year. The Freestyle will get a new front-end design, a la the Fusion, and Ford's 3.5-liter V-6 engine.

But the Freestyle's future looks doubtful. With new crossovers such as the Edge and Ford's aim to reinvent the minivan, Ford is said to be ready to drop the Freestyle by the end of the 2009 model year.

The Mercury version of the Freestyle, once planned for 2007, has been dropped, although an occasional prototype is snapped by spy photographers. In May, Fields said the Mercury version was not going to be produced, despite rumors to the contrary.

Ford Freestar, Mercury Monterey

The current minivans will be short-lived. Ford will end production of the Mercury Monterey in August. The Ford Freestar will die sometime thereafter, perhaps before the end of the 2007 model year. Sales of the minivans have been dismal since their expensive re-engineering in late 2003.

Ford, Lincoln minivan alternatives

Following the sales fiasco with the Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey, Ford is banishing the word "minivan" from its vocabulary.

The automaker is developing models for the Ford and Lincoln brands that will have the same functionality as a minivan, such as a flat floor and three rows of seats. But executives have been calling these vehicles "people movers." This is the same term Chrysler Corp. used when it introduced the Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans in 1983.

The two models will be derived from the Volvo-based D3 architecture used to underpin the Ford Five Hundred and Freestyle. The vehicle platform pegged for the people movers has sometimes been referred to as D4, a stretched version of D3.

The styling for the Ford brand vehicle is based on the Fairlane concept shown at the 2005 Detroit auto show. How closely the production vehicle sticks to the upscale styling cues of the concept is unclear. The Fairlane name likely will not appear on the production vehicle, a Ford insider says.

The Ford-brand vehicle, code-named D471, is expected to go into production in early 2008 for the 2009 model year. Volume has been forecast at around 100,000 units annually.

Timing for the Lincoln version, code-named D472, is less clear. It was expected in early 2008 as a 2009 model, but that could change. Annual volume of the Lincoln is forecast at around 25,000. Both vehicles are slated to be built at Ford's Oakville, Ontario, plant.

The people movers may offer the 4.4-liter V-8 engine. Hybrid versions of both vehicles were planned at one time, but they may be dropped in light of Ford's retreat on its hybrid goals.

Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer

The future of Ford's flagship SUV looks tough. Ford Explorer sales continue to fall. Only minor changes are expected in coming years, such as a freshening for the 2009 model year.

The 2007 model does correct one irritating issue with the 2006 model: It has new "pull cups" - cup-shaped gripping areas built into the arm rests to make the doors easier to shut.

If sales continue to fall, some analysts say, Ford could retire the Explorer name possibly by early next decade.

The future of the Mercury Mountaineer is even more uncertain. Some analysts believe the Mercury SUV may be dropped after the 2008 or 2009 model year. Fields said that wasn't true when asked in a May interview.

Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator

The re-engineered and restyled 2007 Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator debut this fall along with two new stretched versions, dubbed the Expedition EL and Navigator L. The wheelbase on the stretched models is 14.7 inches longer. The Expedition EL serves as a true Chevrolet Suburban fighter for Ford. The 2007 SUVs share Ford's T1 vehicle architecture with the F-150 family.

Exterior styling changes were not a high priority, Ford engineers acknowledge. The exterior sheet-metal changes were concentrated at the front and rear ends of the vehicles, with carryover sheet metal in between.

The Expedition and Navigator are expected to get Hurricane engines. The Navigator is expected to get the 6.2-liter V-8 and the Expedition a 6.2- or 5.8-liter version, if that is developed. Ford also plans a high-mileage Expedition that could feature a 4.4- or 4.5-liter V-8 diesel. Ford even has studied a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain for the Expedition.

Ford Explorer Sport Trac

The redesigned Ford Sport Trac debuted earlier this year for the 2007 model year. No major changes are expected in the coming years.

Ford Ranger

The future of the Ford Ranger pickup is uncertain. What is certain is that the only plant assembling the Ranger, in St. Paul, Minn., is scheduled to be closed in 2008.

Options include dropping the compact pickup line, moving Ranger production to another plant or redesigning the pickup using portions of the Explorer architecture. If Ford executives endorse the last choice, the redesigned pickup could be on the market at the end of this decade or the beginning of the next. If redesigned, "F-100" has been considered as the new name.

Ford also has studied a global compact pickup design that could be built overseas and exported to several markets, including the United States.

Plans to redesign the Ranger have been delayed several times. The current pickup dates back to the 1993 model year.

Ford F-150, Lincoln Mark LT

Ford executives say they will do whatever it takes to maintain the F series' success as the No. 1-selling pickup line. Accordingly, powertrain improvements, a restyling and a re-engineering are in the works for the 2009 model year.

The re-engineered and restyled F-150 is expected to go into production in April 2008. The re-engineered and restyled 2009 Mark LT should follow four months later.

Ford F-series Super Duty

Ford will begin producing the redesigned 2008 F-250 and F-350 Super Duty pickups in January. The automaker had pushed the program back several months. The new Super Duty line will offer a new 6.4-liter V-8 diesel engine.

Ford E series

The Ford E-series van is expected to get a minor freshening for the 2008 model year. It also will offer the 6.4-liter V-8 diesel at that time. Ford will phase in standard stability control for its short-wheelbase passenger vans for the 2007 model year; it was added to the long-wheelbase passenger vans for the 2006 model year.

Rick Kranz contributed to this report
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