Ford is counting on the 2006 Ford Fusion and its Mercury Milan cousin to be big sellers.
Future Products: Ford Motor Co. -- Ford gambles on a new plan for 'people-movers'
AMY WILSON | Automotive News
As Ford Motor Co. tries to rejuvenate its turnaround, product developers are changing long-standing plans for sport wagons and minivans.
It's an 11th-hour decision in some cases and an expensive gamble. A handful of vehicle programs have been dropped or moved to a different platform. With all the changes, product timing is tentative, sources say.
Just last January, executives touted the Ford Fairlane concept at the Detroit auto show as their vision for a new "people mover" - a minivan-type vehicle, in other words.
The Fairlane was on Ford's Mazda6-based CD3 platform. But the plan has evolved to a similar-styled vehicle built on Ford's bigger D3 platform that originated with Volvo. Both are front-wheel-drive platforms. Through 2010, Ford will rely more heavily on those two car platforms.
The first three vehicles on the Mazda-based CD3 platform - the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr - will debut this fall. The Volvo-based D3 platform, which traces its origin to the Volvo XC90, will be used for at least eight North American models, including a trio of Lincolns.
Ford's vehicle plan for the 2006-09 model years also includes a small SUV-like vehicle, several sport wagons, the redesigned Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator and the Ford Super Duty pickups.
Here are Ford Motor Co.'s North American vehicle plans for the 2006-09 model years, compiled from suppliers, analysts and company sources.
Fusion sedan debuts
Explorer freshened, re-engineered
Mustang Shelby Cobra GT500 debuts
Edge sport wagon debuts
Expedition Max debuts
Explorer Sport Trac redesigned
Super Duty redesigned, re-engineered
Focus restyled, re-engineered
Five Hundred freshened
Possible Shelby Cobra GR-1
Small sport wagon debuts
Escape restyled, re-engineered
Possible sport wagon (or 2009)
Fusion hybrid debuts
F-150 restyled, re-engineered
Minivan debuts (or 2010)
Milan sedan debuts
Mountaineer freshened, re-engineered
Mariner restyled, re-engineered
Sport wagon debuts
Milan hybrid debuts
Zephyr sedan debuts
Mid-sized sedan debuts
Stretched Navigator debuts
Large sedan likely debuts
Minivan debuts (or 2010)
Mark LT restyled, re-engineered
With the success of Toyota's Scion, plus Nissan's acknowledgement that at least one small vehicle is on the horizon, Ford dealers want a car priced below the Focus. The 2005 Focus ZX3 hatchback has a base price of $14,010, including shipping.
One possibility is a car developed on Ford's B-segment platform, used by the Fiesta in Europe. Such a car is being developed for production in Cuautitlan, Mexico, for the 2008 model year. The vehicle could be sold in the United States as well as Mexico. The small car shares a platform and an assembly plant with a small sport wagon scheduled for the U.S. market.
Ford executives say the well-regarded European Focus' C1 platform is too expensive to adapt for North America. Instead, the automaker will re-engineer and restyle the North American Focus for the 2008 model year.
Front-end styling is the main difference between the 2006 Mercury Milan sedan, top, and the 2006 Ford Fusion. Both cars offer a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine.
Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, Lincoln Zephyr
Three vehicles developed on the new fwd CD3 platform arrive this fall: the 2006 Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr sedans. Awd versions are expected in about a year. The Fusion and Milan share sheet metal. The Fusion will be positioned between the Ford Focus and Five Hundred. The Taurus will be dropped next summer. The Milan will be positioned below the Montego. Prices will start around $18,000 and $19,000, respectively.
The Fusion and Milan will offer a base 160-hp, 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine and an optional 210-hp, 3.0-liter V-6.
The Zephyr is Lincoln's entry-luxury vehicle. It will be priced at just under $30,000. Although it shares the V-6 engine and six-speed transmission with the Fusion and Milan, unique exterior styling and luxury interior touches will differentiate the Zephyr. The Zephyr shares 35 percent of its exterior sheet metal with the Fusion and Milan.
The automaker's new 3.5-liter V-6 will replace the 3.0-liter V-6 next year in the Zephyr. There is debate within Ford about whether the 3.5-liter V-6 should be shared with the Fusion and Milan.
The three cars will be assembled in Hermosillo, Mexico.
Ford is developing hybrid powertrain versions of the Fusion and Milan. They will debut for the 2009 model year. Ford may build a Special Vehicle Team performance version of the Fusion.
The once-proud Taurus is entering its final model year. More than 90 percent of its sales now come from fleet buyers, and Ford will end production next year. The end date for the Taurus had been March 31, 2006, but production probably will be extended by about three months.
Ford Five Hundred, Mercury Montego
The Ford Five Hundred is scheduled for an early freshening in spring 2007. The 2008 Five Hundred will receive a three-bar horizontal grille that will become the face of Ford cars. The 2006 Fusion will introduce that styling theme this fall. A freshening also is planned for the 2008 Montego. Ford will address the criticism that the Five Hundred and Montego are underpowered by making its new 3.5-liter V-6 available in both cars for the 2008 model year.
The timing isn't certain, but suppliers and analysts expect Ford to drop the continuously variable transmission in favor of a new six-speed automatic that will be used across its lineup. The current six-speed transmission is sourced from Aisin, and the CVT was designed by ZF. "They'll phase into the (new) six-speed automatic and really just drive a ton of volume on that," one analyst says. The upcoming six-speed automatic was co-developed by Ford and General Motors. Ford powertrain chief Dave Szczupak says the CVT has a place in Ford's transmission lineup for awhile. Ford is carefully watching response to the police package offered on the 2006 Dodge Charger. Ford wants to hold on to its police car business, which is the bulk of the Crown Victoria's sales. It may develop a V-8 pursuit package for the Five Hundred, although law enforcement agencies are cool to fwd cars.
Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis
The future of the automaker's aging rwd Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis sedans is undecided.
Several options are under review: re-engineering and reskinning the cars for the 2009 model year, producing the current cars into the next decade, or letting the cars die at the end of this decade. While the vehicle platform has been re-engineered several times, it dates back to 1978.
If the Grand Marquis is dropped, the automaker could develop a sedan off a stretched version of the fwd D3 platform, sources say. There is no timetable.
Ford was debating whether to shift the two models to the slightly smaller rwd platform used by the Ford Falcon in Australia. But talk of adopting that platform for North America has lessened in recent months.
Lincoln LS, Town Car
The D3 platform will become the foundation of Lincoln's premium car models. Awd is expected to be offered on all cars.
According to sources, there could be a gap between the end of production of the Lincoln LS and the car's replacement. While the LS is expected to go out of production at the end of the 2006 model year, the mid-sized replacement will debut for the 2008 model year. It may get a new name.
The car's engine could be a version of the Yamaha V-8 used in the current Volvo XC90. Ford is contemplating North American production of that engine at its Lima, Ohio, factory.
A second Lincoln model will be developed on a stretched version of the D3 vehicle platform. While the timetable for this larger car is not final, it is more likely to appear as a 2009 model than a 2010. Lincoln may revive the Continental name for this car. Both D3-based Lincolns will be assembled in Atlanta.
Lincoln is likely to continue building the Town Car for an undetermined period after the startup of this new large Lincoln. When Town Car production does end, there will be no rwd luxury sedans in the Lincoln stable.
The fastest Mustang will be the Shelby Cobra GT500, a 450-plus-hp car that arrives as a 2007 model. The car is a collaboration by Carroll Shelby and Ford's Special Vehicle Team.
Ford Mustang, Mercury coupe
With the success of the redesigned 2005 Mustang, the next step is to maintain a buzz for the car as it ages. Ford will introduce the Shelby Cobra GT500, a Special Vehicle Team version of the Mustang for the 2007 model year. The limited-edition car will be powered by a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 that will produce at least 450 hp.
The Shelby Cobra GT500 is the first of several special editions planned for the Mustang. Others will follow on an annual basis, including possible Bullitt and Mach 1 models. Ford is contemplating a sporty Mercury coupe based on the Mustang platform. The Mercury Messenger concept from the 2003 Detroit auto show is one inspiration. But the coupe remains on the wish list. There is no timetable.
The two-passenger, 550-hp supercar is expected to end its limited run in mid-2006, though insiders say production could continue for several additional months to make up for production lost to a control arm recall.
The Ford Shelby Cobra GR-1 concept was a big hit on the auto show circuit this year. The next step would be approval for production.
Ford Shelby Cobra GR-1
The Shelby Cobra GR-1 concept from the 2005 Detroit auto show could be the halo car successor to the GT. If the program is approved, the GR-1 could go into production for the 2008 model year.
Small sport wagon
Ford is gearing up to create a small sport wagon positioned below the Escape. Coming for the 2008 model year is a variant of the Brazil-market EcoSport, likely with tough, SUV-inspired styling.
The fwd vehicle, which is code-named B410, will ride on the Ford's B-segment platform used by the Fiesta in Europe. It likely will be built at Ford's assembly plant in Cuautitlan, Mexico.
Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner
The popular Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner will be re-engineered and restyled in early 2007 for the 2008 model year.
This concept shows the styling direction for the redesigned car-based 2007 Lincoln Aviator.
Ford Edge, Lincoln Aviator
The second group of vehicles that will evolve from Ford's CD3 platform will be two sport wagons, the five-passenger 2007 Ford Edge and Lincoln Aviator.
The Aviator will replace the truck-based Aviator that was discontinued at the end of the 2005 model year. It will be the debut vehicle for Ford's new 3.5-liter V-6 engine, officials have said.
The automaker also is developing a stretched version of the CD3 vehicle platform for a seven-passenger sport wagon scheduled to go into production in the 2008 or 2009 model year. It could be badged as the Mazda CX-9 or as a Ford.
Ford Freestyle, Mercury sport wagons
Suppliers expect the current version of the Ford Freestyle sport wagon to be dropped after the 2007 model year, giving it a short three-year life cycle. The vehicle was squeezed out by a proliferation of sport wagons in Ford's future product plans. Freestyle sales have been lower than anticipated.
Not all the investment in the Freestyle will go to waste. Ford still plans to introduce the Mercury version of the Freestyle for the 2008 model year. But sales of the Mercury likely would be much lower than the 100,000-plus volume once forecast for the Freestyle.
Ford sources say the Freestyle name likely will reappear on one of several sport wagon or minivan replacements debuting later this decade.
Engineers introduced a new frame on the 2006 Ford Explorer in an effort to improve ride quality and acoustics. Much of the sheet metal is carried over.
Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer
The re-engineered 2006 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer go on sale late this summer. Ford freshened the front- and rear-end styling, updated the interior styling, added a six-speed automatic transmission and developed a new frame.
Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator
Ford is redesigning the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator for the 2007 model year.
A stretched version, known internally as the Expedition Max, will join the lineup. It takes the place of the huge Excursion, which has been discontinued. The Max will be a true Chevrolet Suburban fighter. A stretched version of the Navigator is expected six months later for the 2008 model year.
A 5.5-liter V-6 diesel engine is in the works for the Expedition and F-150 pickup. But the diesel's timing has slipped, possibly to beyond 2010.
The Ford Sport Trac Adrenalin concept shows the styling direction for the redesigned 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac.
Ford Explorer Sport Trac
The redesigned 2007 Ford Sport Trac will go into production early next year on the Explorer platform. Ford did not build a 2006 model.
The Sport Trac receives a V-8 engine for the first time, an independent rear suspension and a six-speed automatic transmission. An SVT version developed by Ford's performance group is expected in 2007.
After languishing for more than a decade, the Ranger is scheduled for a redesign. The next Ranger is expected for the 2010 model year. The current Ranger was redesigned for the 1993 model year.
But Ford's plans to redesign the Ranger have been delayed several times. As a result, Ranger sales are faltering. Suppliers are not counting on Ford to stick to this schedule either. If Ford goes ahead, the next Ranger could be a world pickup, shared with Asia and South America. The next Ranger likely will have a crew-cab option.
Ford F-150, Lincoln Mark LT
Ford is planning to re-engineer and probably restyle the F-150 pickup in early 2008 for the 2009 model year. Front-end vehicle architecture will be common with the Expedition.
The 2009 Lincoln Mark LT pickup will be re-engineered and likely restyled. The Lincoln will debut about six months after the F-150.
Ford F-series Super Duty
Ford F-250 and F-350 pickups will be redesigned and restyled for the 2007 model year. The truck models will adopt styling cues first seen at the 2002 Detroit auto show on the F-350 Tonka concept.
Ford is expected to introduce its 6.4-liter V-8 diesel engine on the new versions. The engine is expected to pack more horsepower and torque than the outgoing 6.0-liter diesel engine, which has been plagued by quality glitches.
Ford E series
The workhorse van is expected to continue with no major updates for an indefinite period.
Ford has dropped plans to produce a small minivan that would have been about the size of the Fairlane concept shown here. But the styling cues will be seen on a larger Ford vehicle, probably for the 2009 model year.
Ford, Lincoln minivans
Ford Motor Co. is describing these vehicles, code-named D471 and D472, as "people movers," apparently trying to avoid negative connotations associated with the word "minivan."
The vehicles are scheduled to be built in Atlanta on an extended version of the automaker's D3 platform. They probably will arrive in the 2009 model year, though timing is uncertain. These vehicles will replace the Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey.
The plan to use the D3 platform represents a major change in strategy.
Ford executives first said two years ago that replacement minivans would be developed on the smaller fwd Mazda6-based CD3 platform. The Fairlane concept based on the CD3 platform was shown at the 2005 Detroit auto show. But plans for a Fairlane-like vehicle now have evolved to the larger Volvo-based D3 platform.
The D3-based vehicle is expected to draw styling inspiration from the Fairlane concept.
Ford Freestar, Mercury Monterey minivans
The Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans' days are numbered. The vehicles will be dropped by 2008.
The minivans could die earlier, especially the down-and-out Monterey. The minivans have stumbled badly since their introduction in late 2003.