Ford Motor Co. is considering high-performance versions of its Focus subcompact and Expedition sport-utility, according to internal company documents, indicating that the company plans a broader role for its Special Vehicle Team brand.
The documents, posted on an unauthorized Web site, also reveal other SVT news:
Ford may build more Mustang Cobra Rs than originally planned to make it more profitable.
The company may fix horsepower problems with the current Mustang Cobra by possibly replacing customer engines.
Ford may launch a spate of new SVT products, including souped-up versions of the Mercury Cougar, along with the Expedition and Focus.
The documents appeared on www.blueovalnews.com, a Web site Ford has gone to court to strip of the automaker's internal reports. The company has acknowledged in court testimony that the documents reproduced on the site were Ford's.
COBRA NEEDS MORE ROAR
While the documents are revealing, it is unclear whether they spell out Ford's final plans for the SVT brand, Cobra and other matters.
The documents indicate how Ford might fix a horsepower shortfall in the current Cobra. The company claims 320 hp, but Ford acknowledges receiving complaints from customers about power deficits up to 50 hp.
Officially, the company has tied the horsepower loss to casting flash - excess aluminum buildup left over from the casting process - in the intake manifold and overly restrictive mufflers. However, one document suggests that the engine in its current configuration may be capable of only 310 hp without altering internal specifications, such as the compression ratio.
One document on the Cobra suggests the company eventually may replace engines, buy back vehicles, or offer customers a $2,500 rebate on a future Ford purchase.
Ford spokesman Jim Cain said: 'Customer concerns were brought to Ford in late May. Ford engineers listened to the customers, began investigating the problem, trying to determine what the problems were and what the available remedies were. All of this was in motion well before Robert Lane posted any information illegally and improperly obtained from Ford.'
Cain would not elaborate on steps Ford will take to rectify the problem.
COBRA R PROFITS
Another memo, dated July 15, 1999, and authored by SVT Marketing Manager Tom Scarpello and SVT Engineering Manager John Coletti, discusses ways to improve profitability on the Cobra R. The vehicle is a higher-hp version of the SVT Mustang Cobra set to debut in May 2000.
The proposed methods included doubling the 300 cars Ford has already said it will build, adding a convertible version, exporting
a second production run to Europe and increasing the price by $5,000.
The Cobra R is expected to retail for $53,995, according to the document, a figure that Ford has not announced publicly.
One problem: The Cobra R is not expected to meet emissions standards slated for enactment in 2001. That could jeopardize plans for additional production beyond 2000, the document says.
Other documents suggest Ford is considering adding several models to its SVT lineup, which currently includes the SVT Mustang Cobra and Ford SVT Contour. They include an SVT version of the Ford Expedition and an SVT Ford Focus with 170 hp.
In addition, the 2001 Ford Lightning pickup will feature more power and more styling differentiation from the F-150 pickup than the current model.