Five Hundred may spawn Town Car; Ford considering awd, V8 sedan
RICK KRANZ | Automotive News
CHICAGO -- Ford Motor Co. will decide within 12 months whether to replace the Lincoln Town Car with an all-wheel-drive, V8-powered sedan developed by stretching the platform for the 2005 Ford Five Hundred.
"We have a number of alternatives we are looking at, and that is one of the alternatives," said Paul Mascarenas, executive director for medium and large front-drive and all-wheel-drive platforms.
"We are not scheduled to decide until probably around the third quarter of next year, when we have to have a firm decision and an approved program," Mascarenas said. He was interviewed at a Ford event here.
The mid-sized, fwd 2005 Five Hundred sedan and Ford Freestyle sport wagon, and the 2005 Mercury Montego sedan, are based on Volvo vehicle architecture. All three go on sale next month, and each will offer awd.
Mascarenas did not reveal all of the alternatives. But he said keeping the Panther platform on which the Town Car is assembled is an option. That platform dates to 1978 and is shared by the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis.
Suppliers familiar with the company's plans expect the redesigned Town Car, and possibly the LS replacement, to be developed on the platform shared by the Five Hundred, Freestyle and the Montego.
The new Lincolns are expected to be assembled at Ford's Atlanta assembly plant in 2007 or 2008, they say.
A Lincoln model could be differentiated by extending the wheelbase and front and rear overhangs.
"I would think (the wheelbase could be extended) 100 millimeters (3.9 inches), 125 millimeters (4.9 inches) before you would need to start widening the vehicle to balance out proportions," Mascarenas said.
The three 2005 vehicles share a 112.9-inch wheelbase.
Mascarenas said a V-8 would fit the engine compartment.
While General Motors and the Chrysler group are expanding their lines with rear-drive models, Mascarenas said: "I'm not sure the customer needs rear-wheel drive."
But he said Ford will closely monitor response to the awd option on the Five Hundred and Montego.
"That will help us gauge customer reaction to the front-wheel-drive/all-wheel-drive alternative, relative to a rear-wheel drive offering, and that in turn, strategic planning for the next generation of products," he said.
The Five Hundred and Montego will compete against the popular rwd Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum. Both offer awd.
But the mid-sized, rwd platform used by the Australian Falcon will not be adopted for Lincoln.
"We get better economies of scale, better manufacturing efficiencies, better engineering synergies by working with our available design architectures, our available power plants, our available cross vehicle line commodities," Mascarenas said.
For the Lincoln brand, he said the company is focused "on what is the best we can do with what we've got as opposed to looking for yet new, more different design architectures."