By RICK KRANZ | Automotive News
DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. will take its SVT high-performance brand upscale and drop the SVT Focus.
The demise of the SVT Focus is part of Ford Motor's revision of its performance strategy. The company will create a performance series for the Ford brand and likely will add a high-performance Lincoln SUV and a supercharged Mercury sedan.
"I want to see product and performance across the range," said Phil Martens, group vice president of product creation for North America, at a press event here last month.
SVT stands for Special Vehicle Team.
The Ford Performance Group, formed in September 2002, is directing the strategy. The group develops performance vehicles and handles performance parts and services for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury.
Martens said the group will concentrate on three vehicle types beginning in the 2005 model year.
1. High-end vehicles, including the two-passenger 2005 Ford GT and the Ford brand's limited-edition SVT models.
2. Turbocharged and supercharged vehicles.
3. Mainstream performance, including the new ST label for the Ford brand's high-volume performance vehicles below SVT.
With the SVT brand going to a more premium position, the low-end Focus no longer fits. Production of the 2004 SVT Focus will end in the spring. Ford sells about 5,500 SVT Focus models annually.
"We are moving SVT upmarket in terms of performance, content, craftsmanship," said Tom Scarpello, SVT marketing and sales manager. "And obviously, going along with that will be price."
The three-door 2004 SVT Focus has a $19,205 sticker price, including $545 destination. The five-door is $19,705 with destination.
The two other vehicles in the SVT line, the SVT Lightning and the Mustang SVT Cobra, also end production in the spring, leaving dealers with an 18-month gap until new models arrive.
The next-generation SVT Lightning, based on the F-150 pickup, will go into production in late 2005 or early 2006. That will be followed by the next SVT Cobra, which will be based on the redesigned Mustang.
Ford Division is creating high-performance models by using previous-generation SVT engines. For example, the Mustang Mach 1 is equipped with the previous-generation Cobra V-8. The Lightning V-8 also is used in the Harley-Davidson Edition F-150.
John Coletti, director of Ford Special Vehicle Team Programs, wants to do the same thing at Lincoln Mercury.
Coletti said 65 percent of the cost of developing an SVT vehicle is the powertrain - emissions, packaging, hardware and other considerations.
"We are being forced to go up to a much higher level, and what is left behind is a boost for the mainstream products," Coletti said. "It makes sense to trickle that stuff down."
The Ford Performance Group has developed a 2004 Lincoln Navigator equipped with the supercharged 380-hp SVT Lightning V-8, although no decision has been made on production.
Turbocharging and supercharging also are expected to have a wider role in the automaker's powertrains.
A turbocharged 200-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine soon will be approved for the 2005 or 2006 Focus. If produced, it would be a mass-market engine, available to all Ford dealers. The SVT Focus is available only to qualified SVT dealerships.
A supercharged Mercury Marauder also is under consideration.
With the decision to drop the SVT Focus, Focus owners are being targeted with performance parts and accessories authorized by the Ford Performance Group.
The Ford brand will use the ST designation for a range of high-volume performance vehicles with horsepower and suspension and enhancements. The first Ford to carry that badge will be the 2005 Focus ST, a sedan with a 150-hp, 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine.
Martens said the ST designation will be used where appropriate. The mid-sized Futura sedan, due in 2005, is a likely candidate, possibly with all-wheel drive. He said the Taurus is not a candidate.
(Photo)Production of the Mustang SVT Cobra, along with the SVT Lightning, will end in the spring, leaving dealers with an 18-month gap until new models arrive.