DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. said on Thursday it is advancing its plans to redesign the new Five Hundred sedan, which analysts say has been slow to connect with U.S. customers because of its conservative styling.
"We are going to have a freshening not after four years but after two-and-half to three years," Phil Martens, Ford's head of North American product development told Reuters, referring to the Five Hundred.
"And then we will have another freshening about two years later," Martens said.
The Five Hundred is Ford's new flagship sedan and a key vehicle in its North American car lineup. The automaker, which has seen U.S. sales fall 7.3 percent so far this year, is banking on the car and other new vehicles to stop sliding market share and increase much-needed automotive profit.
Ford hopes to sell more than 200,000 of the Five Hundred and Montego sedans, and the Freestyle wagon this year. But sales of the three cars have yet to meet targeted volumes.
Some analysts say the new models, which compete in a market heavily dominated by Asian automakers, fail to make an impression because of their bland styling. By comparison, the boldly styled 300 sedan from Chrysler was dubbed a hit right off the mark when it was launched in April.
But Martens defended the design of the Five Hundred, saying sales of the large sedan have been increasing steadily.
"Internally there was more support for it than people think," Martens said. "When we looked at it, we decided that's the place to start."
Martens declined to say if the Five Hundred would get a design overhaul, but said the car may get a powertrain upgrade and better accessories among other changes.