Ford Motor Co. on Thursday unveiled its Freestar minivan at the Chicago Auto Show. Ford kept the exterior changes minimal between the Freestar and the Windstar, but made major changes to the interior and is offering a new engine option.
The Freestar will be built at Ford's Oakville Assembly Plant in Oakville, Ontario. The vehicle, which is set to go on sale in the United States and Canada this fall, has three rows of seating, a fold-flat third row and a V6 engine.
Ford sold about 148,000 Windstars last year, good for about 15 percent of the minivan market and better than General Motors' Chevrolet and Pontiac models combined. But Honda Motor Co. Ltd. sold about 153,000 Odyssey minivans, and Honda had to use far smaller incentives than either Ford, GM or DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler arm, which holds about 40 percent of the minivan market.
Although Ford would not project sales volume for the Freestar, the automaker says it expects to maintain or slightly increase its minivan market share with the new product.
Ford will offer four versions: Freestar, Freestar LX, Freestar SE and Freestar Limited. The base-level Freestar will have a standard 3.9-liter V-6 engine and an optional 4.2-liter V-6. The larger engine will be standard on the upper level SE and Limited versions.
Optional on all Freestars will be a safety canopy, which protects passengers in all three rows in case of a collision or rollover. The vehicle seats as many as seven adults.
Although the U.S. demand for minivans has been stable at about one million vehicles a year, several automakers are throwing new models into the fray and raising the level of competition.
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s redesigned Quest also goes on sale this year, as does Toyota Motor Corp.'s updated Sienna. And GM this month said it wold build four new minivan models in 2005 under its Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac and Saturn brands.
Ford would not reveal pricing for the Freestar. The Windstar is priced between $21,000 to $32,000.
Reuters contributed to this report.