Martens: SVT is bigger than ever.
Despite a two-year drought that won't see an SVT-branded vehicle on the market until mid-2006, Ford has expanded its Special Vehicle Team to at least 200 people, Martens says. It previously employed around 120 people.
Today's SVT budget also is higher than it has been in the past, he says. Martens wouldn't disclose the investment in SVT or the percentage increase to the budget.
Ford has benchmarked competitors such as BMW's M-series performance group while rebuilding SVT.
"To a certain degree, we have to earn" that kind of a reputation, says Martens, Ford group vice president of product creation. "We can't come out of the block and say we're an M-division team."
Ford last sold SVT-branded products during the 2004 model year. The drought came as Ford redesigned two key SVT nameplates, the Mustang and F-150 pickup.
Ford also discontinued its SVT Focus last year, saying it wasn't upscale enough. Martens more recently has said Ford will take another look at an SVT Focus.
Longtime SVT leader John Coletti retired in December and was replaced by Hau Thai-Tang, chief engineer of the 2005 Mustang.
Martens says Ford eventually will have up to five SVT-branded vehicles at any one time. The first, the 2007 Shelby Cobra GT500, will go on sale next summer. That 450-plus-hp coupe is the first special edition of the redesigned Mustang. Ford will follow with the Ford Sport Trac Adrenalin in 2007.
Ford displayed the GT500 and the 390-hp Adrenalin at the New York auto show last week.
Prices for SVT products will range from less than $20,000 to more than $40,000, Martens says. The GT500 will cost about $40,000.
In addition to natural candidates such as the redesigned Mustang, Ford intends to spread a performance element across the broader Ford brand, Martens says. SVT-badged products will be restricted to Ford Division, but SVT engineers are likely to help develop vehicles for other corporate brands.
Martens won't say what other nameplates are on the SVT list, but likely candidates are the Fusion sedan, debuting this fall, and the Focus. SVT was developing an F-150 Lightning until that project was put on hold last year.
Martens wouldn't say how soon SVT will reach the five-vehicle limit.
"If you get beyond that, it really gets too expensive," he says. "It's difficult to fund and manage the cycle."
You may e-mail Amy Wilson at [email protected]