DETROIT -- A new V-6 engine scheduled to start production next fall eventually could become the Swiss Army knife of engines for Ford Motor Co.
By the end of the decade, the 24-valve 3.5-liter engine will power one in five Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles sold in North America, said Barb Samardzich, Ford's new vice president of powertrain operations.
Ford is investing $335 million to build the Duratec 35 V-6 at its Lima, Ohio, engine plant. Ford has said Lima will have annual production capacity of 325,000 engines. That's not enough for 20 percent of the vehicles Ford expects to sell in 2010, Samardzich said last week. But she wouldn't say whether the automaker already has a plan to produce the 3.5-liter engine in a second plant.
Ford won't forecast how many vehicles the new engine will be in by the end of the decade. But it could be around 650,000 if Ford sticks with its 20 percent plan. In 2005 the automaker will produce an estimated 3.27 million Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brand vehicles in North America, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
The aluminum double-overhead-cam engine will debut next fall in the 2007 Ford Edge and Lincoln Aviator crossovers. It will be teamed with a new six-speed automatic transmission and produce about 250 hp.
Ford engineers designed the 60-degree V-6 to be used in an array of front-, rear- and all-wheel-drive vehicles. Ford wouldn't confirm other vehicles beyond the Edge and Aviator. But the engine is expected to find a home in the Lincoln Zephyr and Ford Five Hundred sedans, sources say.
And it can be teamed with several performance-boosting, fuel-saving and emissions-lowering technologies, such as gasoline direct injection, turbocharging and electric motors for hybrids.
Taking a page from Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., Ford engineers moved the catalytic converter closer to the exhaust manifold. That helps lower emissions on cold starts. Ford says the new V-6 can meet California's strict Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV) emissions standards.
The new six-speed transmission is the first application of the gearbox Ford developed with General Motors. It delivers a 7 percent boost in fuel economy compared with the outgoing four-speed, which will help offset the increase in engine size.
Samardzich said the new engine could easily be used in high-performance vehicles. "When you put on technology such as direct injection, you probably get 20 or 30 horsepower," Samardzich said.
Ford plans to keep its 3.0-liter engine in production for now. But with the 3.5-liter engine, Ford's V-6 offerings will stack up better against the competition.
"Frankly, it was a bit of a hole in the overall lineup," said Dan Kapp, Ford's executive director of powertrain engineering. "It covers a huge amount of ground particularly when you can mate it with a six-speed."
Amy Wilson contributed to this report
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