by Hugh Hunston
Ford is getting in the family way - Auto Express can exclusively reveal that a pair of all-new models will be based on the next-generation Mondeo.
The most radical will be a crossover vehicle, combining estate car and SUV styling with people carrier practicality. We've learned that it will be along the lines of the Freestyle, a new model for the US, which made its debut at this month's Detroit Motor Show.
The importance of the top-secret crossover is shown by Ford's determination to put it into showrooms at the end of 2007. That's a full year before more conventional new Mondeos, such as the saloon, estate and hatchback versions, go on sale.
A senior Ford insider said: "This car is extremely important to us financially and strategically. We have learned lessons from the Fusion, which we arrogantly claimed invented a new segment. The crossover will merge a broad-shouldered, sporty-looking SUV with an estate car, but the interior will win the space race by seating seven people in a classy cabin."
To be launched with front-wheel drive, it's likely that a 4x4 system will feature on the crossover, too. That's because the basic platform will also carry the next-generation all-wheel-drive Jaguar X-Type and Volvo S60.
The second new model is an MPV, due in showrooms in early 2006 and designed to replace the ageing Galaxy. A concept car previewing the MPV could appear at the Paris Motor Show in September, alongside the new Focus.
Ford and its arch-rival Vauxhall are desperately seeking new niches as premium brands move into the 'repmobile' market, which was previously dom-inated by the Mondeo and Vectra.