Ford Motor Co. is looking to Australia for a plan to replace the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis.
Ford engineers are considering the rear-drive platform used for the Australian Ford Falcon to replace the Panther platform in North America. The Panther, which dates to 1978, carries the Ford Crown Victoria, the Mercury Grand Marquis and the Lincoln Town Car.
Suppliers say Ford may replace the Crown Victoria and the Grand Marquis as early as the 2008 model year with cars based on the next-generation Falcon platform.
A Ford source acknowledged the study but said the plan is only in the consideration stage. Ford would have to lock this into the product cycle soon to replace the cars for the 2008 model year.
The new vehicles would be slightly smaller than the current Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis, which are popular mainly among gray-haired customers. Crown Victoria police cars have been criticized because fuel tanks have ruptured in rear-end collisions.
Ford is not considering a next-generation Town Car based on the Falcon platform, suppliers said.
But Lincoln is planning a large flagship sedan that would be built off Ford's Volvo-derived D3 platform. That all-wheel-drive car would be built at Ford's Atlanta assembly plant, possibly for the 2009 model year.
Ford could decide to keep the three Panther cars alive for a longer period. The reasoning would be to "keep making money," one Ford insider said. Panther's development costs have long been paid for, making the automaker's large cars a reliable profit center.