Great News For The Ford Faithful!
AMY WILSON | Automotive News
DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co.'s performance group is bigger and
better-funded than ever, says Ford product chief Phil Martens.
Despite a two-year drought that won't see an SVT-branded vehicle on the
market until mid-2006, Ford has expanded its Special Vehicle Team to at
least 200 people, Martens says. It previously employed around 120
Today's SVT budget also is higher than it has been in the past, he
says. Martens wouldn't disclose the investment in SVT or the percentage
increase to the budget.
Ford has benchmarked competitors such as BMW's M-series performance
group while rebuilding SVT.
"To a certain degree, we have to earn" that kind of a reputation, says
Martens, Ford group vice president of product creation. "We can't come
out of the block and say we're an M-division team."
Ford last sold SVT-branded products during the 2004 model year. The
drought came as Ford redesigned two key SVT nameplates, the Mustang and
Ford also discontinued its SVT Focus last year, saying it wasn't
upscale enough. Martens more recently has said Ford will take another
look at an SVT Focus. Longtime SVT leader John Coletti retired in
December and was replaced by Hau Thai-Tang, chief engineer of the 2005
Martens says Ford eventually will have up to five SVT-branded vehicles
at any one time. The first, the 2007 Shelby Cobra GT500, will go on
sale next summer. That 450-plus-hp coupe is the first special edition
of the redesigned Mustang. Ford will follow with the Ford Sport Trac
Adrenalin in 2007.
Ford displayed the GT500 and the 390-hp Adrenalin at the New York auto
show last week.
Prices for SVT products will range from less than $20,000 to more than
$40,000, Martens says. The GT500 will cost about $40,000.
In addition to natural candidates such as the redesigned Mustang, Ford
intends to spread a performance element across the broader Ford brand,
Martens says. SVT-badged products will be restricted to Ford Division,
but SVT engineers are likely to help develop vehicles for other
Martens won't say what other nameplates are on the SVT list, but likely
candidates are the Fusion sedan, debuting this fall, and the Focus. SVT
was developing an F-150 Lightning until that project was put on hold
Martens wouldn't say how soon SVT will reach the five-vehicle limit.
"If you get beyond that, it really gets too expensive," he says. "It's
difficult to fund and manage the cycle."