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By AMY WILSON | Automotive News

DETROIT -- Reversing an earlier decision, Ford Division will keep the Excursion in its lineup.

Ford had said it would drop the Excursion after the 2004 model year.

Environmentalists, who dubbed it the Ford Valdez for its high fuel consumption, cheered the demise of the 19-foot-long SUV.

Now Ford Division President Steve Lyons says the truck will stay at least through the 2005 model year and perhaps beyond. "We'll see after that," Lyons says. "We could go a little longer if we want because it's selling, and we make money selling it. It's pretty simple."

Ford builds the Excursion on a spur line at an assembly plant in Louisville, Ky. That means the Excursion doesn't take volume away from Ford's profitable F-250 and F-350 pickups, which also are assembled at the plant.

Ford sold 26,259 Excursions in 2003, down 9.6 percent from 2002.

Ford offers a $2,500 rebate on gasoline-engine Excursions and $1,500 on diesel-powered Excursions. The diesel Excursion represents about 60 percent of sales and is more fuel efficient, getting about 18 mpg. Ford says the gasoline Excursion gets about 12 mpg.

The Excursion's base sticker price is $37,550, including destination charges.

Diesel and gasoline models will continue for the 2005 model year, a Ford spokesman says. It is possible that production will convert to diesel-only if the Excursion is extended beyond that.

Despite its extended lifespan, the Excursion is unlikely to hang on after Ford introduces a stretched version of its Expedition SUV, which is expected to debut in 2006 as a 2007 model. It will be assembled at Ford's Wayne, Mich., truck plant.

 
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