Ford Motor Co. product planners face a herculean challenge: Improve quality, speed development time and introduce a great variety of cars and trucks.
Oh, yeah, and wring 10 percent more output out of the money and staff available each year.
Ford says it will bring out a wide range of new, redesigned and re-engineered Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models during the next five years in North America. And, in a bid to turn around losses that totaled $6.4 billion for 2001 and 2002, Ford also aims to cut an average of $700 in materials costs from each North American-built vehicle by mid-decade.
To cut costs, Ford will
In all, product development chief Phil Martens says he aims to improve North American product development efficiency by 10 percent each year.
|What will change|
|Here are the major planned changes in the lineup by model year.|
Ford GT debuts
Five Hundred midsized-sedan debuts
Focus freshened, re-engineered
Freestyle sport wagon debuts
|Futura mid-sized sedan debuts|
Crown Victoria restyled
F-series Super Duty line redesigned (or 2007)
|Sport wagon deubts|
Possible Econoline replacement
Extended Expedition debuts
Monterey minivan debuts
|Montego mid-sized sedan debuts|
Mariner sport wagon debuts
|Mercury mid-sized sedan debuts|
Grand Marquis restyled
|Armored Town Car debuts||Lincoln mid-sized sedan debuts|
LS replaced or redesigned
Town Car restyled
sport wagon debuts
The biggest test of the new product development strategy will be the 10 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles developed off the Mazda6 mid-sized car platform. They include front-wheel- and all-wheel-drive sedans, sport wagons and minivans starting with the 2006 Ford Futura. The Mazda6-based vehicles will account for annual volume of 800,000 by 2009, when all are expected to be on the market.
Here's a model-by-model description of Ford Motor Co.'s product plans for the 2004 to 2007 model years gathered from company, supplier and other sources.
The Focus will be re-engineered and freshened for the 2005 model year. A performance sedan will be offered. A new interior is part of the plan.
Beyond that, Ford is debating what to do for the next-generation Focus. A redesign could happen for the 2008 model year with the North American Focus moving to the C1 platform shared with the new 2004 Mazda3 and the redesigned Volvo S40 sedan and S50 wagon. The European Focus will move to that platform for the 2005 model year.
The Futura is expected to account for about 150,000 sales by 2009.
The first vehicles engineered off the fwd mid-sized Mazda6 platform by Ford of North America will debut for the 2006 model year. Ford, Mercury and Lincoln each will market a sedan.
The Ford Futura and the yet unnamed Mercury and Lincoln models likely will be assembled in Hermosillo, Mexico.
In all, up to 10 vehicles will be developed off the mid-sized Mazda6 platform by 2009. The Futura is expected to account for about 150,000 of the 800,000 sales that the automaker is predicting by 2009 from vehicles off that platform.
The Futura is expected to be a classic family car, with more relaxed ride and handling characteristics than the sportier Mazda6. The Futura will be positioned below the Five Hundred. Awd will be offered.
The Futura's front-end design draws heavily from the highly praised Ford 427 concept. The Mercury's front-end styling will be influenced by the current Mountaineer, as will the 2005 Montego.
A Lincoln concept that will debut at the 2004 Detroit auto show is expected to hint at the styling direction for the sedan off the Mazda6 platform.
A gasoline-electric hybrid version of the Futura is planned, but no timetable has been announced.
Both cars are freshened for the 2004 model year and receive new grilles and fascias. Taurus and Sable will be freshened again for the 2006 model year.
The vehicles have been given an extended lease on life, through at least the 2009 model year. This year, Ford had said it planned to drop the mid-sized cars some time after the 2006 Futura's debut. Suppliers were expecting production to stop in 2005 or 2006. But now the Taurus and Sable will continue in the retail lineup, contrary to expectations that they would shift to fleet-only sales after the Futura's arrival.
The low-volume wagon eventually may be dropped from the model lines.
Taurus and Sable production capacity will be cut in half. The Chicago assembly plant that produces both cars will become the site for 2005 Ford Five Hundred and Freestyle and Mercury Montego production in late 2004.
The 2005 Ford Five Hundred will be the brand's premium sedan.
The mid-sized Montego sedan joins Mercury's lineup for the 2005 model year.
In terms of the cars' size and packaging, the automaker points to the Toyota Avalon. The cars will feature a higher seating position than a conventional sedan, more legroom and a larger cabin.
They will be powered by Ford's re-engineered 3.0-liter Duratec V-6 engine. A 3.5-liter Duratec V-6 being developed could be added later. Two transmissions will be offered: a six-speed automatic developed by Japanese supplier Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd. and a continuously variable transmission developed with ZF Fried-richshafen AG.
The Marauder, hyped as Mercury's muscle car, has failed to excite enthusiasts and will be dropped after the 2004 model year.
The aging, rear-drive Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis will be restyled for the 2006 model year. The cars' platform dates back to 1978.
Ford says the redesigned 2005 Mustang will be true to this concept, a big hit at the Detroit auto show.
But Ford has created a less expensive version of the DEW platform for the Mustang, dubbed D2C, and is studying whether to build other rwd vehicles off that platform. The Ford 427 four-door sedan concept, shown at the 2003 Detroit auto show, was built using the D2C platform. That vehicle could be produced under a Ford, Lincoln or Mercury badge, Ford has said.
The slow-selling Thunderbird will be discontinued after the 2005 model year. Ford Division President Steve Lyons says the automaker eventually will introduce another product under the storied Thunderbird name. No timetable was given.
Talk about a limited edition: Just three Ford GTs were built for the 2004 model year. Next year, about 1,500 are slated for production.
The mid-engined Ford GT's exterior styling is nearly a carbon copy of the sleek two-seaters that captured several 24 Hours of LeMans victories in the 1960s. The 2004 Ford GT's 500-hp, 5.4-liter engine produces 500 pounds-feet of torque. Ford will make about 1,500 GTs a year that will sell for around $135,000.
The Ford GT is intended to help rebuild the brand's image and take the spotlight off the automaker's problems. The GT likely will have a short run, with production ending as early as 2006.
The LS sedan is slated for a redesign or replacement for the 2006 model year. The name may be replaced with something new as part of the strategy to reinvent the Lincoln brand this decade. What is not known is whether the automaker will re-engineer the current platform or use a premium version of the D2C platform.
An armored model is offered for the 2004 model year. The Town Car will be restyled for the 2006 model year.
Ford is contemplating selling this small Brazil-made sport wagon in North America, but no timetable has been determined.
The fwd EcoSport is based on the Ford Fusion sold in Europe. A year ago, Ford was toying with bringing the Fusion to North America, but that idea was scrapped after determining that the vehicle wouldn't suit U.S. tastes. But the EcoSport has a higher stance and a more trucklike flair than the Fusion. It is smaller than the Ford Escape.
The 2005 Mercury Mariner is sister vehicle to the Ford Escape.
Ford says the hybrid Escape will get 35 mpg to 40 mpg in city driving. It uses Ford's 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine, a 65-kilowatt electric motor and a 28-kilowatt generator. The vehicle will have off-road and towing capability and acceleration comparable to the 201-hp Escape V-6 engine, the automaker says.
Ford will freshen the Escape for the 2005 model year.
The 2005 Mariner, a Mercury version of the Escape, will debut in the fall of 2004.
The awd Freestyle wagon concept will evolve into a production vehicle for the 2005 model year. It will be built on the same platform as the Ford Five Hundred.
The 2005 Freestyle sport wagon will be built off the same platform as the Five Hundred and Montego, and the three vehicles share suspension design with Volvo. Fwd and awd models will be offered. The Five Hundred's powertrains will be shared. The Freestyle will offer three rows of seats.
Ford Motor will launch two 2007 sport wagons - one for Ford Division, one for Lincoln - in August 2006 at its Oakville, Ontario, assembly plant.
Styling will be sporty and curvy, more like the Nissan Murano and Infiniti FX45. That styling is intended to differentiate the Oakville-made Ford sport wagon from the Ford Freestyle. Front and awd versions will be offered.
Combined volume of the 2007 Ford and Lincoln sport wagons is estimated at 175,000 units. The Lincoln version is designed to compete with vehicles such as the Lexus RX 330 and Cadillac SRX.
This will be the second group of vehicles developed off the Mazda6 platform.
The Explorer and Mountaineer will be freshened for the 2006 model year. But the Explorer-based Aviator will be dropped, possibly as early as 2005. Lincoln may revive the Aviator name for the 2007 sport wagon that is being developed off the Mazda6 platform.
Though the Explorer family has been a big seller for Ford, the market is shifting from truck-based SUVs to car-based unibody sport wagons. Ford plans to close its St. Louis assembly plant, one of two plants producing the Explorer family, in 2005 or 2006. It may not make business sense to move the St. Louis-assembled Aviator to the other Explorer plant in Louisville, Ky., and build the Lincoln there for a short period.
Ford is studying the next step for the SportTrac, which is built on the previous-generation Explorer platform. Ford has considered moving it to the redesigned Explorer platform and adding a longer bed to create a premium entry in the mid-sized pickup market. But now it appears Ford could drop the SportTrac, possibly as soon as the end of the 2004 model year.
The Expedition and Navigator will be freshened for the 2007 model year.
Ford also will introduce an extended version of the Expedition for the 2007 model year. Dealers want an SUV that better matches up in size against the Chevrolet Suburban. The Excursion is just too big, dealers say.
Ford will drop the large SUV after the 2004 model year.
The Ranger will be freshened for the 2006 model year, but no redesign is slated yet for the aging small pickup. The Ranger's last major redesign was in 1993, and a redesign for the 2002 model was canceled.
The cost of a complete redesign in a segment with a low price point is the issue. A Ford executive noted the Chrysler group's cancellation of its M80 small pickup project as Ford struggles to decide the Ranger's future.
Eventually, Ford could turn to Mazda for a small pickup entry.
The rear shock absorbers on the redesigned 2004 Ford F-150 pickup are mounted outside the frame rails, close to the rear wheels, to improve ride. This helps prevent the rear suspension from bouncing over bumps.
The redesigned 2004 F-150 pickup debuted this summer. It features angular styling cues, bigger cabs and premium interiors, in addition to a new frame and V-8 engine.
The F-150 has a feature no other base pickup has in its standard cab: four doors. The additional two doors are narrow access doors, which open to a small cargo area behind the front seat, designed to store toolboxes, sleeping bags or fishing gear.
The F-series Super Duty pickup line will be redesigned for the 2006 or 2007 model year.
Debuting for the 2004 model year is the Mercury Monterey minivan.
The companion 2004 Monterey minivan was added to Mercury's lineup.
Ford will move its minivans over to the Mazda6 platform probably for the 2008 model year.
The Econoline may be replaced for the 2007 or 2008 model year with a full-sized van designed for sale in North America and Europe. Passenger and cargo versions are planned.
The van also would replace the Ford Transit, which is sold in Europe.
If produced, the Econoline might continue in the Ford line here, serving in a lesser role.
The new van's platform, code-named V349, would be derived in part from both the Econoline and the Transit. Powertrain offerings are expected to provide better fuel economy than the current Econoline.
Automotive News Product Editor Rick Kranz contributed to this report