Ford has delayed the launch of its Focus-based compact minivan to 2001 or 2002 because the vehicle is being redesigned to increase seating capacity.
When the automaker began designing its compact minivan, the five-seat Renault Megane Scenic was the European segment's pacesetter. But the successful Opel/Vauxhall Zafira upped the competitive stakes by adding two seats.
The Zafira's innovative seating arrangement includes a rear bench seat that slides forward to increase cargo capacity.
'Opel caught everybody with their pants down,' said Charlie Moss, an analyst for J.D. Power-LMC in Oxford, England.
Adding two seats in a conventional way would have been easy for would-be Zafira competitors, he said, but adding them in the way Opel/Vauxhall did has created significant engineering challenges.
The addition of two seats will make the Focus-based compact minivan potentially appealing for North America, where sources say it probably will be made and sold.
The European version of the Focus-based minivan probably will be made at Ford's factory in Saarlouis, Germany. A second Ford compact minivan also is in the works, based on the Fiesta platform.