DETROIT -- As Ford Motor Co. prepares to ditch its conventional minivans, a company executive has confirmed that a Ford-brand version of its Fairlane concept will reach the market in 2008.
Lincoln also will get a Fairlane-based vehicle, suppliers say.
The Ford-brand vehicle is an approved product, said a Ford executive who didn't want to be identified. Company executives expect the three-row crossover to replace a traditional minivan in the automaker's lineup.
The company confirmed in late June that the Mercury Monterey minivan will be dropped this fall. Production of the Ford Freestar minivan could end before the end of the 2007 model year.
Sales of Ford Motor's minivans have been dismal, with 8,166 Montereys and 77,585 Freestars sold in the United States in 2005. During the first six months of 2006, Monterey sales plunged 40.4 percent, and Freestar sales dropped 20.9 percent.
Ford is looking for a fresh start with the Fairlane. The production vehicle must have bold design and can't be "bloaty and overpriced" or "look like a station wagon," a Ford insider said.
With its Range Rover styling cues, the Fairlane departs from the jelly-bean shape of minivans. But it's not clear just how much of the concept will be seen in the production vehicle.
One thing that likely won't transfer is the Fairlane name. The production version "almost for sure" won't be called the Fairlane, the Ford insider said. Some auto dealers objected to that label, saying it wasn't a strong name.
Also, since the retirement of Steve Lyons, Ford no longer is wed to the idea that Ford-brand car nameplates must start with the letter "F." Lyons, the former group vice president of North America marketing, sales and service, pushed that practice, the insider said.
The Ford executive wouldn't confirm the launch date of the production version of the Fairlane, other than to say it is planned for 2008. Suppliers and industry sources expect Ford to begin assembling the vehicle, code-named D471, early that year, probably in February or March. Ford has told suppliers that full-year volumes will be about 100,000.
A companion vehicle for the Lincoln brand, code-named D472, also is being developed for production in 2008, suppliers say. The vehicles are planned for Ford's assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario.
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