CHICAGO -- Ford Motor Co. is taking the Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans upmarket to compete with the Honda Odyssey.
Like the hot-selling Odyssey, both vans will feature third-row seats that fold flat into the floor. They will also have chrome-trimmed gauges and imitation wood trim on the instrument and door panels.
The Freestar and Monterey arrive this fall as 2004 models. Ford expects to sell about 160,000 Freestars and 40,000 Montereys annually. No prices were revealed, but Ford Division President Stephen Lyons says prices will not go up much, despite increased content and a more luxurious interior.
Lyons says the company is counting on selling the Freestar and Monterey without incentives. The 2003 Ford Windstar carries a cash rebate of $3,000.
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Lyons says the company debated whether consumers could get confused by the similar names of the Freestar and upcoming Freestyle sport wagon, scheduled for fall 2004. But company strategists decided the connection made sense.
"You want to have some natural groupings so that you can market them together. When a customer walks in and is looking for something that provides passenger-carrying capability, comfort and flexibility, it creates a family," Lyons says.
Both vans will be available with an optional 4.2-liter V-6 that develops 200 hp and 265 pounds-feet of torque. A 3.9-liter V-6 is standard.
But the company wants the attention to detail in the interior to be the key selling point for both vehicles.
"If you don't have fold-in-the-floor third-row seats, you are not going to be in the game anymore," says Lyons. The interior look shows a family resemblance to the interior of the 2004 F-150.
Looking for more
Elena Ford, Ford Motor Co.'s worldwide director of business strategies and operations, says the Monterey will be marketed to minivan customers who are looking for "a little bit more" than what is available in the Freestar and competitive vans.
The Monterey will come standard with:
The Monterey took styling cues from the Mercury Mountaineer. It uses a version of the chrome waterfall grille and aluminum trim on the taillamps and instrument cluster.
The Freestar has a grille inspired by the Ford Explorer and Expedition. The sheet metal is new.
Said Lyons, referring to the Odyssey: "Our message is clear: Go take your market share from someone else."