DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. could announce early next month that its Louisville, Ky., assembly plant will be devoted to building a range of compact vehicles, including a Lincoln crossover that shares a platform with the next-generation Ford Escape.
Compact production is expected to begin in Louisville near the end of 2011, the Courier-Journal reported.
In a story published Monday in the Louisville newspaper, Ford executives, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the unnamed Lincoln vehicle would be smaller than the MKX crossover and compete with the Lexus RX.
But they did not say whether the Lincoln would go into production in 2011 or 2012. Ford executives have told dealers that the addition of any new Lincoln models is about two years away, Lincoln dealers have told Automotive News.
“We are not in a position to make any statements on anything regarding plants, future cars, platforms or any locations on production,” Lincoln spokesman Christian Bokich said today.
Lexus has dominated the luxury crossover segment, selling 93,379 RX models last year, an 11 percent increase from 2008. Through October, Lexus recorded 76,465 RX sales, a 4 percent increase over the same period in 2009.
Cadillac’s redesigned 2011 SRX is smaller than the previous generation and was sized to target RX shoppers. Through October, Cadillac sold 41,153 SRX models, a 236 percent increase from the same period in 2009.
Ford executives said the next-generation Escape also would be assembled in Louisville. That vehicle will share a platform with Ford of Europe’s Kuga crossover. But additional models slated for production at the plant have not been identified.
The plant currently builds the 2011 Ford Explorer, which goes out of production in December. The redesigned 2012 Explorer will be assembled at Ford’s Chicago area plant.
The Louisville plant will handle the automaker’s new compact front-wheel-drive platform, which also will be used by the 2012 Ford Focus.
In a speech last month before the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers, Jim Tetreault, Ford's vice president of manufacturing, said the automaker is preparing to target smaller vehicle niches as opportunities arise, according to the Courier-Journal. report.
Tetreault said the automaker’s business model no longer relies on extremely high volumes of a single model, such as 500,000 Tauruses a year in two plants. Instead, the flexibility of the retooled Louisville plant will allow Ford “to produce 400,000 vehicles in one plant [and] up to six to seven different kinds of vehicles,” the newspaper reported.
The plan for a compact Lincoln crossover comes as Ford prepares to reinvigorate the Lincoln brand and add models.
Through October, Lincoln sold 70,120 vehicles, a 6 percent rise. Sales last year totaled 82,847, a 23 percent drop.
Ford has said Lincoln will introduce seven new or restyled vehicles in the next four years. Details have not been announced. The brand currently sells three sedans, two crossovers and an SUV.
Lincoln plans to drop the Town Car next year.