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Ford designers allowed to be bolder in rally plan


Photo's by Global Auto Index

What's different in 2007 Ford vehicles
Ford Motor Co. officials talked Wednesday about these changes for the 2007 lineup:

The Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossover vehicles. The five-passenger vehicles go on sale in November.

Ford Edge

Lincoln MKX

Ford Expedition, the longer Expedition EL and Lincoln Navigator SUVs go on sale in September, with a Navigator L to follow.

Ford Expedition,

Ford Expedition EL

Lincoln Navigator

Navigator L

Safety equipment
Side air bags standard on Ford Fusion, Five Hundred, Freestyle, Edge, Expedition and Expedition EL; Mercury Milan and Montego; Lincoln MKX, Navigator and Navigator L.

All-wheel drive
Available as option on the Fusion, Milan and Lincoln MKZ sedans. The MKZ replaces the Zephyr.

Ford Fusion

Mercury Milan

Lincoln MKZ

New engine
3.5-liter, 265-horsepower V6 in the MKX; will also be used in other models.
New transmission
Six-speed automatic to boost fuel efficiency.

Road burner
New Mustang Shelby GT500 with a 500-horsepower V8, the most powerful factory-built Mustang.

Mustang Shelby GT500

Ford hybrids: $1,950, $2,600 tax credits
The Internal Revenue Service set the maximum tax credit available Wednesday for the 2007 model-year Ford Motor Co. hybrid SUVs:
Front-wheel-drive Ford Escape hybrids -- $2,600.
Four-wheel-drive Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids -- $1,950.
The tax credit decreases over time after an automaker sells the 60,000th unit of a hybrid model.
The most fuel-efficient hybrids get a credit of up to $3,400 under the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
Free Press staff

Ford Motor Co. says it's making Bold Moves more than just an advertising campaign.

It's also a directive -- to scrap the bureaucracy, rip up the stale product plans and unleash creativity. And Ford's automotive designers say that's allowing them to dream over a future that seems more daring than doubtful.

"Things have changed here," said Moray Callum, an 11-year Ford veteran who leads car design for Ford, Mercury and Lincoln brands.

Callum made the remark Wednesday at Ford's new Dearborn Development Center, after Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, and other top executives showed the 2007 lineup that features two new crossover models: the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX.

Fields gave a progress report on the 5-month-old Way Forward turnaround plan, which he said is on track to restore Ford's North American automotive operations to profitability by 2008. He also boasted how the automaker would bring hotter vehicles to market faster and deliver more features that consumers want.

Chief Executive Officer Bill Ford told the Free Press on Tuesday that Fields and product-development chief Derrick Kuzak were bringing the best of Mazda, Volvo and Ford of Europe practices together with traditional Dearborn habits to form a smarter, global production system.

"We needed help because we were not quick enough, we were too bureaucratic, and we were not global in our outlook in terms of commonality," Ford said.

After Fields' presentation ended, Callum and Pat Schiavone, Ford's design director for all pickups, SUVs and crossovers in North America, sat down on white folding chairs in a nearly empty meeting hall and talked about what the Way Forward means for how Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles will look.

Both men, who were appointed to their posts May 1, have been working with Fields and other top brass in monthly meetings on that subject, scrapping some plans and crafting what they say are more exciting ones.

In those discussions about vehicles, "we're only talking about what they look like" and not engineering limitations or costs, said Schiavone, a graduate of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and father of the newest generation F-Series.

Schiavone said this nontraditional corporate experience has thrilled him. Although he might look the part of the antiestablishment artist, with his sleek black clothes and modern eyeglasses, he gushes when he talks about Ford's restructuring plan.

"I believe in the Way Forward," he said. "It's been a breath of fresh air."

Critics may have their doubts, especially when considering some of the design duds that have hit Ford showrooms in recent years, such as the Five Hundred sedan and Freestar minivan.

But Schiavone and Callum envision a new Ford world, infused with the soul of the F-150 and Mustang, two vehicles that succeeded because Ford understood its customers' needs -- and emotions.

For Schiavone and Callum, the cloud hanging over Ford -- job cuts, plant closings, financial losses and a depressed stock price -- has a silver lining for their 780-strong design department. Trying times and market challenges often inspire exasperated executives to let their designers take risks.

Sometimes, the results can be genius for their era: the minivan, the SUV, the crossover.

So, Schiavone insisted, "It's really an exciting time."

"It has to be an opportunity for us," Callum added. "We have risen to the occasion."

So what, exactly, do these two have in store?

They won't say. It's a big no-no for executives to discuss future product.

"What Ford Fairlane?" Schiavone joked, hinting at a concept car that the automaker has heavily suggested might carry Ford-buying families of the future.

Callum said the biggest design challenge facing Ford is how to create an exciting family sedan, a vehicle that is essentially practical in its layout and architecture.

"We're not going to turn Ford into Mazda," he said. "We want to instill the same kind of boldness that's in the Mustang in sedans."
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