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Old 05-20-2003, 07:12   #1 (permalink)
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Ford turning to Mazda6 platform for minivan replacement

May 20, 2003
By AMY WILSON | Automotive News

LAKE HAVASU CITY, Arizona -- The much-vaunted Mazda6 platform will spawn Ford Motor Co.'s minivan replacement this decade.

Ford's current minivan, the Windstar, is being re-engineered, restyled and renamed the Ford Freestar this fall. It will be joined by the new Mercury Monterey minivan.

But after the Freestar runs its course, its replacement will be built off the Mazda6 sometime during the next several years, said Phil Martens, Ford vice president of North American product creation, at a press event here.

The automaker is banking on that mid-sized platform to generate up to 10 new products and 800,000 in annual volume for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury during the next several years.

The first product will be the Ford Futura sedan bowing in 2005.

Martens said Ford hasn't decided whether to stick with a traditional minivan look when the replacement arrives. He wouldn't disclose the year of its arrival.

The new product's look, he said, will depend on how the market evolves during the next couple of years with the arrival of more five- and seven-passenger SUVs and crossovers, plus so-called high-package sedans such as the Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego, both due in 2004.

Those sedans are designed to have more interior space and a higher seating position.

"There definitely is a sector in the marketplace that likes the step-over convenience of a minivan," Martens said.

"But there are also those getting tired of driving their third or fourth minivan. So it's something we've got to study a little more."
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