Ford has two options for developing a rear-wheel-drive sedan for the United States. But it is not clear that a rwd sedan program is on the horizon.
Ford could develop a rwd sedan from its Mustang platform or from a platform being developed in Australia, sources have said. In recent weeks, the case for Australia has strengthened.
Ford announced in May that it is spending $1.35 billion to develop two platforms there, including a rwd car platform to be used for the next-generation Australian Ford Falcon. That car is expected to arrive in 2008. Left- and right-hand-drive vehicles are expected to be developed for Australia and export markets.
In an interview that appeared on the Australian Web site drive.com.au, Ford of Australia President Tom Gorman said his unit aims to be an exporter "at a time when the U.S. is looking at where it's going with its large rear-wheel-drive platform." But Gorman, former North American sales manager for the Ford brand, noted that export volume ambitions for the Australian unit are modest - "15,000 to 30,000, not 100,000."
Product chief Kuzak said the next-generation Falcon platform is available as an option that Ford's U.S. product planners could tap. But outside of the Mustang, the emphasis of car development in this market is on front-wheel-drive platforms with awd capability, he said.
Ford Mustang; Lincoln, Mercury coupes
The Ford Mustang will be restyled for the 2010 model year, one year later than previously planned.
The Mustang is likely to get a bigger engine developed under the Hurricane program. The main Hurricane engine is expected to have a 6.2-liter displacement, but a 5.8-liter is also possible. Ford could revive the Boss name to brand the engines.
Ford has pledged to keep the Mustang nameplate fresh by doing special versions each model year. The 2007 model year marks the debut of the Shelby GT500 coupe and convertible, powered by a 500-hp, 5.4-liter V-8. Production will be limited to about 9,000 units.
Designers have worked on a Lincoln coupe based on the Mustang platform. Planners also have considered a Mercury version of the Mustang. But it is unclear whether either vehicle will make it into the product plan.
Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner
The Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner crossovers will be re-engineered and reskinned for the 2008 model year. The models are expected to debut in January. The current engine family will be carried over to the new models. Changes include a new interior and exterior styling tweaks such as more chrome accents.
Ford reduced prices on the hybrid versions of the crossovers for the 2007 model year and said it will do more for the 2008 model to narrow the price difference between the hybrid- and gasoline-powered models.
Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX
The 2007 Ford Edge and the Lincoln MKX are the newest crossovers in the Ford family. Both debut late this fall. The crossovers - based on the CD3 architecture that also underpins the Fusion, Milan and MKZ - will be built in Ford's Oakville, Ontario, assembly plant.
The two-row, five-passenger crossovers are among the most crucial launches of the 2007 model year for Ford. Both vehicles will use Ford's new 265-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine. All-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission will be available.
The Edge and MKX are scheduled for Job 1 in mid-October and are expected to be on sale by the end of November. Ford aims for 120,000 annual Edge sales.
After much internal debate over its future, the Ford Freestyle is scheduled for a freshening early next year for the 2008 model year. The Freestyle will get a new front-end design, a la the Fusion, and Ford's 3.5-liter V-6 engine.
But the Freestyle's future looks doubtful. With new crossovers such as the Edge and Ford's aim to reinvent the minivan, Ford is said to be ready to drop the Freestyle by the end of the 2009 model year.
The Mercury version of the Freestyle, once planned for 2007, has been dropped, although an occasional prototype is snapped by spy photographers. In May, Fields said the Mercury version was not going to be produced, despite rumors to the contrary.
Ford Freestar, Mercury Monterey
The current minivans will be short-lived. Ford will end production of the Mercury Monterey in August. The Ford Freestar will die sometime thereafter, perhaps before the end of the 2007 model year. Sales of the minivans have been dismal since their expensive re-engineering in late 2003.
Ford, Lincoln minivan alternatives
Following the sales fiasco with the Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey, Ford is banishing the word "minivan" from its vocabulary.
The automaker is developing models for the Ford and Lincoln brands that will have the same functionality as a minivan, such as a flat floor and three rows of seats. But executives have been calling these vehicles "people movers." This is the same term Chrysler Corp. used when it introduced the Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans in 1983.
The two models will be derived from the Volvo-based D3 architecture used to underpin the Ford Five Hundred and Freestyle. The vehicle platform pegged for the people movers has sometimes been referred to as D4, a stretched version of D3.
The styling for the Ford brand vehicle is based on the Fairlane concept shown at the 2005 Detroit auto show. How closely the production vehicle sticks to the upscale styling cues of the concept is unclear. The Fairlane name likely will not appear on the production vehicle, a Ford insider says.
The Ford-brand vehicle, code-named D471, is expected to go into production in early 2008 for the 2009 model year. Volume has been forecast at around 100,000 units annually.
Timing for the Lincoln version, code-named D472, is less clear. It was expected in early 2008 as a 2009 model, but that could change. Annual volume of the Lincoln is forecast at around 25,000. Both vehicles are slated to be built at Ford's Oakville, Ontario, plant.
The people movers may offer the 4.4-liter V-8 engine. Hybrid versions of both vehicles were planned at one time, but they may be dropped in light of Ford's retreat on its hybrid goals.