Magna International Inc. and Visteon Automotive Systems have won contracts to produce key interior components for Ford Motor Co.'s new small sport-utility.
The vehicle, code-named U204, is scheduled to debut in the 2001 model year. Ford and Mazda each will get versions of the vehicle.
Magna will produce the seats and door panels, while Visteon will manufacture the instrument panel, according to two industry sources. Visteon, the second-largest supplier to North America, is Ford's in-house parts maker.
The Ford deal marks another major seat contract for Magna, which trails Lear Corp. and Johnson Controls Inc. in North American seat sales.
Magna, of Aurora, Ontario, has seat contracts with each of the Big 3. Earlier, it won contracts to make seats for:
Chrysler Corp.'s next-generation minivan, which is due in the 2001 model year.
General Motors' new Delta compact car line, which will include new versions of the Chevrolet Cavalier, Pontiac Sunfire and Saturn sedan, and is expected in 2002.
Mazda will handle engineering for the sport-utility, and Ford plans to build the vehicle in Kansas City, Mo., these sources say. If the automaker does so, it is expected to move production of the Contour and Mystique to Mexico.
Ford has told suppliers to plan for maximum production of about 230,000 vehicles a year, close to its straight-time capacity of 240,000 units. But analysts say a forecast of 200,000 vehicles a year would be more realistic.
'That's what we're telling our clients,' said Craig Cather, president of CSM Corp., a consulting firm in Okemos, Mich. 'Most of the demand will be in North America.'
Ford spokesman Jim Bright declined to comment on U204.
'We've said we are going to bring something to market, but we haven't said when,' Bright said. 'We don't comment on future product plans.'
The vehicle will be smaller and cheaper than the Ford Explorer, and will compete against the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. According to one source, Ford will get a low-priced version, while Mazda will get an upscale model.
One source says the U204 will be built on a car platform - probably on the Mazda 626 - but that could not be confirmed.
The project is a clear signal that Ford is hustling to keep up with consumer demand for small sport-utilities and sport wagons. The automaker also plans to produce a mini sport wagon based on Europe's Fiesta platform. That vehicle will be assembled in Brazil.