Ford Motor Co.'s crown jewels are under pressure.
Ford Motor Co. product highlights
At the same time, Ford is trying to get the most from its acquisitions and alliances.
The company is consolidating vehicle platforms among its global brands, spawning a new era in product development. Ford's future range of lower-medium cars, such as the next-generation Ford Focus, Mazda Protege and 323, and Volvo S40 and V40, will share a platform. Major components, systems and modules also will be shared.
Ford is adding sport wagons — vehicles that offer nimble handling and better fuel economy while retaining the looks and functionality of sport-utilities.
Ford is taking a gamble with the Taurus nameplate, once the best-selling car in the United States. In 2004, Ford will halve production of the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable in favor of a new mid-sized sport wagon. Ford launched the strategy when it stopped building the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique, replacing the compact sedans with the 2001 Ford Escape sport wagon.
On the luxury side, Lincoln will expand its lineup to as many as eight vehicles in the next six years. Lincoln will receive a small, entry-level luxury sedan and a "baby Navigator'' sport-utility. The new car line will be built around European-style power and handling characteristics, reflecting Lincoln's efforts to raise brand cachet to the levels enjoyed by BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Nurturing Lincoln includes giving the brand its own design chief. Under Gerry McGovern, who arrived in 1999, more than 30 designers have joined Lincoln's design staff. Some have never worked in the auto industry.
Here is a model-by-model rundown of what Ford, Lincoln and Mercury plan for the 2002-05 model years.
Ford Motor Co. cars
Ford's successful Focus will be redesigned for the 2005 model year.
Ford Motor Co. is consolidating platforms among its global brands. The company owns 33.4 percent of Mazda Motor Corp., and it acquired Volvo Car Corp. in 1999 and Land Rover Ltd. in 2000.
The automaker's future range of lower-medium cars will use the same platform and share major components, systems and modules, beginning as soon as 2003.
Ford's C1 Technologies program, headquartered at Ford of Europe in Cologne, Germany, will spawn the next-generation Ford Focus, Mazda Protege and 323, and Volvo S40 and V40. The current cars are built independently on separate platforms.
Ford is taking the lead on suspensions and vehicle dynamics. Mazda has the lead responsibility for four-cylinder engines and manufacturing automation, while Volvo is spearheading safety and manufacturing technology. Ford of Europe is overseeing the program.
Ford has said the C1 program will develop as many as 15 vehicles, including variants that will be produced in as many as six countries. The first vehicle from the C1 Technologies program likely will be the Focus-based multiactivity vehicle, a seven-seat model scheduled to appear in Europe in calendar 2003. It is expected to go on sale in the United States around the 2005 model year.
Ford Escort, ZX2
Time is running out for the Ford Escort sedan and the ZX2 coupe. The 2001 Escort sedan soldiered on as a fleet-only vehicle, while the 2001 ZX2 continued in the regular Ford retail lineup. That strategy will continue for the 2002 model year, Ford said. Beyond that, the future doesn't look good for either car.
Ford Taurus, Mercury Sable
Before a redesign, Ford is expected to freshen the Taurus and Sable, around the 2003 model year.
In the 2006 model year, Ford may derive the next-generation Taurus sedan from the new mid-sized sport wagon's front-wheel-drive platform.
Ford is considering a tall-roof, higher profile sedan following the formula of the Ford Focus sedan. Whether a wagon will be offered has not been determined.
The replacement for the Sable is unclear. The Sable sedan may be derived from the new sport wagon platform, the next-generation Mazda 626 or the next-generation Ford Mondeo, which would result in a smaller vehicle.
The Mustang will be redesigned for the 2004 model year. The coupe and convertible will remain rear-wheel drive and ride on a chassis derived from the DEW platform, which underpins the Lincoln LS, and the 2002 Ford Thunderbird.
New Ford coupe
Ford unveiled the Forty-Nine concept in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The coupe revives styling that revitalized the company after World War II. The retro-looking concept uses a modified version of the rwd DEW platform, and it is powered by the 3.9-liter, dual overhead cam, 32-valve V-8 powering the Thunderbird and Lincoln LS.
Due to a strong favorable response to the Forty-Nine, Ford is considering it for production. If approved, the car would be developed by the company's Living Legends design studio, which is charged with producing a stable of vehicles that invoke passion in consumers.
The Thunderbird returns for the 2002 model year as a two-passenger roadster, wearing vintage cues from the 1955-57 models.
But while the styling is retro, the componentry is 21st century, heavily borrowed from the Lincoln LS and other Ford vehicles. About 65 percent of the T-Bird's parts are derived from other Ford products. Ford is capping annual Thunderbird production at 25,000 units to maintain the T-Bird's appeal and used-car values. Telematics and stability control likely will be offered midway through the car's expected six-year life cycle.
Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis
These large, rwd V-8 sedans will be freshened in early 2002 for the 2003 model year.
The sedans will be redesigned in the 2005 or 2006 model year.
The sporty four-passenger Cougar is expected to remain in the lineup for the short term. The car is not carrying its weight in Mercury showrooms. Sales are off 33 percent through June compared with a year ago. A mild freshening is set for the 2002 model year.
The 2003 Marauder, a high-performance sedan based on the Grand Marquis, goes on sale in summer 2002.
Created as a nod to Mercury's hot rod past, the 300-plus-hp Marauder is powered by a 4.6-liter, dual overhead cam V-8 with performance modifications.
In the 2002 model year, all Lincolns will offer an optional vehicle communication system, which is built around a Motorola telephone with hands-free capability. The system includes SOS notification, automatic collision notification upon airbag deployment and route assistance.
No major mechanical changes are planned for the 2002 Continental. The car will be dropped by the end of that model year, as Lincoln tries to imbue its lineup with the power and handling characteristics of a world-class luxury brand. The Continental is a fwd car that no longer fits into Lincoln's rwd strategy.
Lincoln's 3-series fighter
Lincoln will field a new entry-level sedan in 2004 that will be smaller than the LS sedan. The new model will compete with the Mercedes-Benz C class and BMW 3 series, two successful lines that accounted for combined U.S. sales of more than 124,000 in calendar 2000.
Lincoln's new entry, code-named D310, may ride on a new rwd platform or the rwd Lincoln LS/Ford Thunderbird platform. It likely will be a 2005 model.
Lincoln's mid-sized four-door import fighter will be reskinned for the 2003 model year. Lincoln will freshen nearly all of its vehicles in 2003.
The LS will be redesigned in the 2005 or 2006 model year, but it will remain on the DEW rwd platform.
Lincoln Town Car
No major mechanical changes are planned for the 2002 Town Car.
For the short term, the important model year is 2003, when the Town Car will be reskinned and re-engineered. The big sedan will receive more horsepower, bigger brakes and a better ride, along with a taller trunk lid aimed at satisfying the livery business that wants more luggage space.
Lincoln convertible, performance sedan, coupe
Premier Automotive Group planners want to expand Lincoln's lineup to as many as eight vehicles during the next six years.
As part of that expansion, Lincoln is considering a four-passenger convertible with V-8 power that may be built on a new rwd platform. The platform also may underpin Lincoln's upcoming entry-level sedan.
In addition, Gerry McGovern, Lincoln's design chief, has suggested that Lincoln's future may include a new flagship sedan.
Lincoln is said to be studying two versions of a high-horsepower performance sedan, which would serve as that flagship. The car would be targeted at the Mercedes-Benz AMG and BMW M models. One Lincoln proposal calls for extensive use of aluminum. The other proposal is for a steel-bodied car that could draw on Lincoln components. The sedan could arrive as a 2005 or 2006 model.
The MK 9 coupe concept, which was unveiled in April at the New York auto show, may join Lincoln's portfolio. The concept was crafted as a modern luxury coupe with understated chrome finishes and clean body sides drawn from Lincolns of the 1960s.
Ford Motor Co. vans
New Mercury minivan
Mercury is holding a place in its portfolio for a new minivan, replacing the Villager that was engineered by Nissan Motor Co. and assembled by Ford. The minivan, which may be a derivative of the Ford Windstar, will not arrive until the 2003 model year, at the earliest.
Sales of the Villager, which went into production in 1992, have been falling since hitting a peak of 129,000 units in 1995. Last year, Mercury sold 30,443 Villagers, down 33 percent from the previous year.
The Windstar minivan will be re-engineered and reskinned in the 2003 or 2004 model year. All-wheel drive will be offered.
Ford Motor Co. trucks
Ford sport wagon
Ford's strategy for the mid-sized market changes dramatically. Ford is betting that North American buyers are tiring of middle-market sedans. So the company will convert one of its two Taurus and Sable assembly plants to production of a new fwd, mid-sized sport wagon that will bow in the 2005 model year. The vehicle will be available with awd capability.
Ford's Chicago-area assembly plant will stop producing the Taurus and Sable, switching to the sport wagon, a new tall-roof vehicle that blends minivan functionality and sport-utility attributes.
Whether the new vehicle will have its own name or be positioned under an expanded Taurus brand is unclear. Ford could create several models under the well-known Taurus brand, much as it did with the Explorer brand. But while the Explorer has a trucklike body-on-frame construction, the new sport wagon will feature carlike unibody construction.
The vehicle strategy is risky for Ford. In 2000, the Taurus and the Sable represented 11.5 percent of Ford Motor Co.'s sales in the United States. And if a seven-passenger version is offered, it may encroach on the seven-passenger Explorer.
A Lincoln or a Mercury variant also is likely.
Ford Escape, Lincoln Mercury SUV
The Ford Escape sport wagon, introduced as a 2001 model, is a sales winner. Ford sold 82,804 Escapes through June. The Escape will not be changed until a freshening for the 2003 model year.
Ford wants to get more use from the Escape platform, the company's first truck platform with unibody construction. The platform also underpins Mazda's version of the five-seat sport-utility, the Tribute.
Ford is considering an Escape-based, awd sport wagon that likely would carry a Lincoln rather than a Mercury badge. But Ford also is studying whether the Lincoln brand would be better served with a larger, awd vehicle created from the new platform that will underpin the Ford brand's mid-sized sport wagon in 2005.
Ford Division also is considering a so-called baby SportTrac, possibly as early as the 2003 model year. The new vehicle would mate an Escape cabin with a pickup bed, the formula Ford used for the Ford Explorer SportTrac.
A hybrid-electric Escape will be offered in 2003. The Escape HEV is the company's first hybrid-electric engine in a mass-market vehicle.
The five-seat sport wagon uses a four-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric-drive motor. The gasoline engine powers the wheels directly in the conventional manner or indirectly by charging the battery that supplies the electric motor. The electric motor provides a slight boost during acceleration, thereby reducing the load on the engine and increasing fuel economy. Rather than idling, the gasoline engine also shuts off at a traffic light and restarts when the accelerator is depressed. Ford claims the hybrid Escape will achieve an estimated 40 mpg in combined city/highway driving. The hybrid's driving range is an estimated 500 miles per tank of gasoline.
Explorer, Mountaineer, new Lincoln SUV
The Explorer and Mountaineer were redesigned for the 2002 model year, so a restyling won't happen until the 2005 or 2006 model year. But it is unclear whether, or when, the two-door Explorer Sport and Explorer SportTrac will be redesigned. The four-door SportTrac features a short pickup bed and is based on the previous-generation four-door Explorer platform.
By calendar 2004, Ford will offer a 42-volt Explorer powered by a V-6 gasoline engine that features an integrated starter-generator. The integrated starter-generator replaces the conventional starter and alternator.
The integrated starter-generator technology yields an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent fuel economy improvement, Ford said.
The electric assist allows the gasoline engine to shut off automatically when the Explorer stops at a traffic light and immediately start again when needed.
The new 2002 Explorer platform will spawn an additional sport-utility for Lincoln. The unnamed vehicle will bow in spring 2002 as a 2003 model. The so-called baby Navigator will have its own sheet metal and interior styling to differentiate it from the Explorer.
The sport-utility's styling will not reflect Lincoln's new design strategy because it was locked into place before the new Lincoln design director, Gerry McGovern, was brought on board.
Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator
Ford is delaying for about six months the re-engineering and reskinning of its full-sized sport-utilities until spring 2002. The revamped products likely will be designated 2003 models.
The front and rear will be updated and the interiors will be restyled to further differentiate the Ford and Lincoln siblings. Both vehicles will have an independent rear suspension as part of the overhaul to improve the ride.
Ford also is mulling the creation of an extended-wheelbase Expedition, possibly during the 2003 model year, that would target Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL buyers.
Sales of Ford's heavy-duty sport-utility are off 26 percent in the first six months of 2001 compared with a year earlier. The sport-utility shares a chassis, powertrain and other major components with the Ford Super Duty. If Ford opts to create an extended Expedition, it will be difficult to build a case for keeping the Excursion.
Ford's compact pickup received styling, handling, braking and powertrain upgrades in the 2001 model year.
The move to a wider platform is the next step. Originally, the redesign was scheduled for the 2003 model year. Reports conflict on whether Ford will stick to that schedule or delay Ranger changes.
One scenario gives the Ranger a freshening for the 2003 model year, delaying the redesign until the 2005 or 2006 model year.
Ford F series, Super Duty
The current F-150 pickup has been on the market since the 1997 model year and the Super Duty debuted for 1999. The F series is a big profit maker for Ford. But although the competition will increase with new products, Ford won't redesign the trucks for at least four years.
Ford will restyle the F-150 lineup for the 2003 or 2004 model year, giving the trucks a more rugged appearance and all-new interiors. Also on tap are more efficient powertrains that boost fuel economy.
The automaker expects to restyle the Super Duty about 18 months later.
The F-150 redesign won't debut until the 2006 or 2007 model year.
Lincoln's first sport-utility pickup arrives in August. Production will be limited to 10,000 units annually.
Lincoln created the Blackwood by mating a 56-inch cargo bed to the four-door Navigator cabin. The luxury truck is powered by the Navigator's 5.4-liter, 32-valve, dual overhead cam V-8, producing 300 hp.
Its interior and exterior styling likely will be updated for the 2004 model year to reflect some of the changes planned for the 2003 Navigator.
Ford expects to reskin the Econoline van for the 2004 model year. More efficient engines that increase fuel economy will be introduced for the 2003 or 2004 model year.
Ford Motor Co. electric
Ford's Th!nk unit is an eco-friendly global brand introduced in January 2000. The group comprises two units: Th!nk Mobility, which will produce and market battery-powered electric vehicles; and Th!nk Technologies, which will develop and commercialize fuel-cell powered vehicles.
The new-generation Th!nk City electric car will be sold in the United States beginning in spring 2002. Eventually, Ford wants to build 5,000 City units annually for worldwide distribution from a factory in Aurskog, Norway.
Ford Division dealers are signing up to sell Th!nk products.
The City will be sold initially in California, New York, Massachusetts and Arizona and nationally sometime later.