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Old 04-21-2003, 09:47   #1 (permalink)
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Ford Motor plans 10 new vehiclesOne challenge: Make Lincolns from a Mazda sedan

By Amy Wilson
Automotive News / April 21, 2003

Grand plans
Ford Motor wants to Produce as many as 10 vehicles and 800,000 units from the Mazda6 platform
Create vehicles for Ford Division, Mercury and Lincoln
Develop sedans, crossovers and luxury vehicles

Ford Motor Co. is counting on a vehicle platform from Japan to drive its North American product resurgence.

The Mazda6, a mid-sized sedan introduced last year by Ford affiliate Mazda Motor Corp., will provide the platform for as many as 10 vehicles for Ford Division, Lincoln and Mercury. First will be the Ford Futura in 2005.

The new vehicles will fill many holes in Ford Motor's product lineup, giving more substance to CEO Bill Ford's promise of a turnaround led by products.

The vehicles will range from luxury products for Lincoln to sedans to crossovers. They will hold five to seven people and offer front- and all-wheel drive. All 10, with a combined sales goal of 800,000 units, are scheduled to be on sale by 2008 or 2009.

Ford's challenge is to make distinctive vehicles for all three brands, particularly Lincoln, from the Mazda hardware. If Ford can pull it off, it will improve its sales and market share and enjoy huge economies of scale.

Ford executives chose the Mazda6 in part because the platform can be lengthened and widened. As much as 65 percent of Mazda6 parts, as measured by value, can be used in the new vehicles, Ford executives say.

"Architecturally, the platform has the capability to handle a wide range of product and functional attributes," says Phil Martens, Ford vice president of product creation for North America. "I'm not concerned about our ability to take that platform and turn it into our Lincoln DNA."

What to watch for

The vehicles based on the Mazda6 will bring many changes at Ford Division, Mercury and Lincoln.

Ford Division

Production of the Ford Taurus will end at a yet-to-be-determined point after the Futura arrives, Ford Division President Steve Lyons says. As the Taurus winds down, sales will shift from retail to fleets.

The Futura will fill a gap in the middle of Ford Motor's car lineup, the so-called CD segment, between the Focus and the Five Hundred. That slot has been empty since 2000, when Ford stopped producing the Ford Contour and the Mercury Mystique. The Futura also will be offered with a gasoline-electric hybrid engine.

The Futura will draw some styling cues from the Ford 427 concept shown at the Detroit auto show in January, notably the five horizontal bars at the front of the car.

Ford expects to produce about 150,000 Futuras annually.

Mercury

Mercury will get a derivative of the Futura, also slated to debut in 2005.

Lincoln

Lincoln will get a small, awd sedan and a sport wagon to challenge the Lexus RX 330. They likely will arrive in 2005 or 2006.

Range of powertrains

The 10 vehicles will carry a range of powertrains - from inline four-cylinder engines and V-6s to high-performance engines and a gasoline-electric hybrid.

Production locations haven't been determined, but the Atlanta assembly plant will be available after Taurus production ends.

The 800,000-unit goal likely will require three plants. All will be built in North America, executives say.

Ford Motor will consider supplier parks at the production sites for the vehicles, Martens says. The automaker is experimenting with that approach at its Chicago assembly site, which is being retooled to produce the Ford Five Hundred and Freestyle and the Mercury Montego.

The strategy of using one platform for 10 vehicles is Ford's response to the fragmentation of the U.S. market into ever-smaller niches. The days when a single nameplate other than full-sized pickups can command nearly a million sales a year are long gone.

"We've had the capacity on cars, just not the segment coverage," Lyons says. "Trying to sell 400,000 of one thing is a lot harder than selling 400,000 of four things or three things."

Ford in part decided to use the Mazda6 platform rather than a European platform because the Mazda6 already was in North America. It went into production last year at a joint-venture plant in Flat Rock, Mich., where the Ford Mustang also is scheduled to be built.

The one-platform, 10-vehicle approach also moves Ford away from its earlier emphasis on selling the same car globally. For instance, the Contour and Mystique, near copies of the European Ford Mondeo, fizzled in the United States. Though praised for good ride and handling, they were too small for U.S. tastes. Ford COO Nick Scheele says Ford won't make such mistakes again.

Says Scheele: "Large economies of scale happen regionally. They do not happen globally."

Managing Editor David Versical contributed to this report
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