DETROIT -- Mark Fields isn't ignoring trucks.
One of the most important product changes in the Way Forward plan is aimed squarely at protecting Ford Motor Co.'s truck position, its greatest profit generator and most important asset.
Fields revived Ford's 6.2-liter V-8 Hurricane engine program. The Hemi fighter, put on ice by predecessors, is designed to maintain Ford's lead in big pickups in the face of a competitive onslaught. General Motors and the Chrysler group already sell V-8s with more horsepower, making engines a potential weak spot for the Ford F series, the top-selling U.S. pickup.
Analysts call it a good move but say the indecision has cost Ford time. The Hurricane engine isn't likely to debut until 2008 at the earliest, sources said.
In a recent interview, Fields said trucks are cornerstone products. The Ford division will do what's necessary to maintain leadership in pickup sales, he said.
Fields has been surprisingly active in mixing up the product plan, given prior comments by CEO Bill Ford. Just after appointing Fields as Ford Motor's president of the Americas last fall, Bill Ford called the product cycle "very solid" and said not to expect much change.
In April, Bill Ford acknowledged the product shake-up - "but it was for the right reason," he said. Disruption often generated by such changes has been minimized by acceptance and lack of infighting among Ford Motor's product development group, he said.
Other Way Forward product changes include:
- The demise of the planned Adrenalin version of the Ford Explorer Sport Trac. The Adrenalin, engineered by the Special Vehicle Team, had been scheduled to go on sale in 2007.
- A scaled-back lineup for the SVT performance unit. Last year executives said SVT would get as many as five products. Now that's down to two. Fields said Ford will offer one high-performance Mustang and one high-performance truck per year going forward. He said the automaker has to "balance our resources."
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