CHICAGO - Ford Motor Co. finally has a mid-sized vehicle to compete in the booming sport wagon segment. The 2005 Ford Freestyle goes on sale next month.
The Freestyle's primary mission is to target SUV owners who might leave Ford because they're tired of a truck-based vehicle.
"We have a big Explorer base, but as the crossover market evolved, we had defections from the Explorer to crossover vehicles," said Ray Nicosia, vehicle engineering manager, at a press event here.
Sport wagon sales continue to escalate. In 2003, 1,486,669 sport wagons were sold in the United States, a 40.4 percent increase from 2002.
Sport wagons are usually unibody vehicles with carlike ride, handling and step-in height. The vehicles have SUV-like styling. All-wheel drive is available, sometimes as an option.
The Lexus RX 330, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Buick Rendezvous and Acura MDX are popular models.
Last year, the only sport wagon offered by Ford division was the compact Escape, which accounted for 167,678 units.
Ford predicts 100,000 annual Freestyle sales in the United States when full production is reached.