DETROIT - Three crucial product launches in the next several months are expected to put Ford Motor Co.'s promised product revival to the test.
The three programs to watch closely are:
1. The new 2007 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers. Both vehicles should reach showrooms in November.
2. The re-engineered and restyled 2007 Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator. Both should be in showrooms in September. Extended-length models will be added for both brands. The Expedition EL is a true Chevrolet Suburban competitor.
3. The redesigned 2008 F-series Super Duty. Sales are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2007.
"All launches are very important. But Edge is going to be very important for the Ford franchise, and MKX is going to be very important for the Lincoln brand," says Cisco Codina, Ford's group vice president of North American marketing, sales and service. "Both are in a really great segment, the crossover segment."
Even as Ford loses buyers in the mid-sized and large-SUV segments, the Edge gives the company a good chance to keep those people as Ford owners, Codina says. The aim is to begin to reduce the automaker's decline in market share.
Codina says Ford is aiming for 120,000 units a year for the Edge, which features the automaker's new 265-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine and all-wheel drive. He would not disclose a volume target for MKX.
The 2007 Expedition is another big-ticket investment for Ford. But the automaker will be challenged to keep the introduction from being a repeat of the 2006 Ford Explorer, which landed on the market with a thud despite significant upgrades. Rising gasoline prices were largely to blame.
Ford marketers have acknowledged that sales of the 2007 Expedition are likely to fall below past volumes as customers continue to flee large SUVs. But with the new extended-length versions, Codina says, Ford is aiming to increase its segment share.
Ford says the 2007 Expedition will have a starting price of less than $30,000.
With the F-series pickup being Ford's most important source of automotive profits, the success of the next-generation Super Duty is essential to the company's turnaround. The 2008 Super Duty is readying for its launch as sales of full-sized pickups start to tail off and as the re-engineered 2007 Chevrolet Silverado and redesigned Toyota Tundra pickups are prepared.
But the 2008 Super Duty will have one potentially powerful new weapon: a 6.4-liter diesel engine to replace a 6.0-liter version that had become known for quality problems.
You may e-mail Amy Wilson at [email protected]