Mary Ellen Heyde is the Windstar vehicle line director. She was interviewed in Dearborn, Mich., by Staff Reporter Mary Connelly.
Will you produce a V-8 Windstar?
We have considered a V-8 version many times. We have done at least three market research clinics. We've even had drivable models. But every time you do it, you can't put a business case together. The customers appreciate the idea, but not at the price required.
What about all-wheel drive?
We're looking at all-wheel drive. When we do the market research, as a $50 option, consumers will take it. You start proving what the price tag is, and they are all expensive systems, then the take rate goes down drastically. The challenge is to do an all-wheel-drive system that is affordable.
Are minivan sales vulnerable to attack by sport-utilities?
During the 1990s, the minivan segment has stayed constant at about 8 percent of the total industry. In the same period, SUVs have grown from 11 percent to 17 percent. So the SUVs have not taken from the (minivans). The bottom line is that if you look at (minivan) sales history over the last decade, it is essentially constant at 8 percent.
How do you expect the minivan market to perform in the next two to three years?
We think the market is mature, but we don't see any drastic decline in the segment. Minivans are so functional. The reason they were able to overtake station wagons is not just the rejection by baby boomers of their parents' vehicle. It is also because a minivan is a more functional vehicle. If you can provide a vehicle that offers the same functionality and has different aspirational appeal, you might be able to cut into the segment.