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Ford strategy: Going global will boost Blue Oval brand

Amy Wilson

Automotive News | August 27, 2007 - 12:01 am EST

To CEO Alan Mulally, the comeback of Ford Motor Co. depends on a thriving Ford brand.

Ford hopes it can nourish its namesake brand with money saved by leveraging global platforms and vehicle design in product development.

With an effort to dump Jaguar and Land Rover and possibly Volvo, Ford could free up even more product money to put behind its bread-and-butter Blue Oval brand. Jettisoning Volvo brings its own challenges because Volvo's products and platforms are mostly integrated with Ford's domestic brands. But Ford could alleviate disruptions by maintaining a minority stake in Volvo.

B-car: After years of morphing plans, Ford seems to have settled on introducing one subcompact in North America: a sedan based on the new global B-segment platform. It likely will arrive for the 2010 model year and will be about the size of the current Chevrolet Aveo. The U.S. B-car will be a modified version of the next-generation Ford Fiesta, which goes on sale in Europe in 2008.

The Ford-brand B-cars are being developed by a global team based in Germany. The new platform was engineered by Mazda and it underpins the new Mazda2.

The U.S. car is slated to be assembled at a Ford plant in Brazil beginning in 2009, according to suppliers and industry sources. North American volume could range from 50,000 to 80,000 units annually.

Focus: Ford has re-engineered and restyled the Focus for the 2008 model year. Sales begin this fall. Ford has reduced the number of body styles to a coupe and a sedan.

A redesigned Focus is being developed for the 2011 or 2012 model year. Code-named C346, that Focus is expected to be the first North American entry for the Ford brand on Europe's next-generation C1 platform. The current U.S. Focus is based on an older platform no longer used in Europe.

Most design and engineering work is likely to be based in Europe. The production site for the redesigned Focus is uncertain: Ford could continue to build it in Wayne, Mich., or move it to Cuautitlan, Mexico.

With the next generation, Ford's North American and European units will share a global Focus. But don't expect them to be identical. Ford executives have said global vehicles will be customized to local tastes and requirements. And European small cars typically sport more premium content than U.S. entries.

Fusion: The mid-sized sedan will be reskinned for the 2009 model year; a hybrid model will be added, though it may not arrive in dealerships until early 2009. A 3.5-liter V-6 likely will be available.

The Fusion, which now rides on a modified Mazda6 platform, is likely to move to Ford's global EUCD platform around the 2012 or 2013 model year. The North American Fusion and the European Mondeo are likely to become one global vehicle, with local market tweaks.

Taurus: The Ford Five Hundred was renamed Taurus for the 2008 model year, the styling was freshened, and the car was re-engineered.

The Taurus is expected to be re-engineered and restyled for the 2010 model year. Whether Ford can make that timing, a supplier said, will depend on how quickly and efficiently it can borrow platform upgrades engineered for the Lincoln MKS, which goes on sale in the 2009 model year.

Crown Victoria: The Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car are based on Ford's 30-year-old Panther platform. Minimal updates are expected. Ford is likely to drop the Panther cars early next decade.

Volumes will continue to drop as the vehicles become largely fleet cars. By around 2009, volumes could be as low as 100,000 units combined for the three models, a supplier said. Ford sold 156,959 Panther-based cars in 2006.

Interceptor: Ford is exploring the development of modern rear-drive sedans for Ford and Lincoln. Ford executives are interested in a sedan resembling the Ford Interceptor concept that debuted at the Detroit auto show. They could tap a global rwd platform being developed in Australia. But new corporate average fuel economy rules expected to be enacted could dampen enthusiasm for rwd products.

Mustang: Ford continues to plan special-edition models. The Shelby GT500 KR will go on sale in spring 2008. A Bullitt model also is planned sometime in 2008.

A reskinned Mustang is planned for the 2010 model year. Interior upgrades and improvements in ride and handling are slated.

A redesigned Mustang is likely around the 2012 or 2013 model year. Ford could put the next-generation Mustang on the global rwd platform being developed in Australia.

Escape: The crossover has been re-engineered and reskinned for the 2008 model year; sales began this year.

Ford will replace the Escape with a U.S. version of Europe's next-generation Ford Kuga. The replacement vehicle will be developed on the re-engineered C1 platform. Code-named C394, the vehicle is expected to debut for the 2012 or 2013 model year; its overall size may be smaller than today's Escape. The Escape name may be dropped.

Edge: The crossover will be freshened for the 2010 model year. Updates include changes to the front and rear fascia.

The Edge is expected to migrate from the modified Mazda6 platform to the global EUCD platform next decade. The timetable is uncertain.

Taurus X: The former Freestyle has been freshened, re-engineered and renamed for the 2008 model year. With other crossovers scheduled, such as the Ford Flex and the upcoming unibody Explorer, Ford is expected to drop the Taurus X in a couple of years. One supplier said Ford has said the Taurus X will end production in early 2009.

Explorer: The rugged, off-road SUV is destined to become a crossover. Ford plans to move the body-on-frame Explorer to a unibody platform when it redesigns the vehicle, likely for the 2011 model year.

It is expected to be developed on the Volvo-derived platform now used for the Taurus and Taurus X, and it probably will be produced at Ford's Chicago assembly plant.

Flex: Ford will begin building the 2009 Flex at its Oakville, Ontario, assembly plant next spring. It will go on sale in the summer.

The boxy, three-row wagon was developed from the Volvo-derived D3 platform that underpins the Taurus and Taurus X. The Flex will have a 3.5-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive will be available.

Explorer Sport Trac: Ford has considered building a unibody Sport Trac when the Explorer moves to a unibody car platform. But this idea now appears less likely, suppliers and industry sources say. That means the Sport Trac is likely to be dropped when the Explorer becomes a crossover.

Expedition: The large SUV will be freshened for the 2010 model year.

Ranger: The aging compact pickup is likely to go out of production in 2008 when Ford closes its St. Paul, Minn., plant where the Ranger is assembled.

F-150: Ford is re-engineering and restyling the pickup for the 2009 model year. The updated version is slated to start production in late spring or summer of 2008.

Ford said it stopped the F-150 program for two months in 2006 and made changes designed to keep it competitive. They include a new front end designed to look tougher with a version of Ford's three-bar grille. A new interior, extensive sheet metal changes and a larger crew cab model are planned.

F-series Super Duty: The redesigned 2008 Super Duty went on sale early this year. A new F-450 pickup also was introduced. A freshened Super Duty is planned for the 2011 model year.

Transit Connect: Ford plans to import the fwd Transit Connect, a small delivery van sold in Europe, most likely for the 2010 model year. The Transit Connect is built in Turkey on a more robust version of the European Ford Focus platform. It is aimed at tradespeople and delivery businesses that do not need a full-sized van nor require a heavy payload.

E series: The E-series full-sized van is re-engineered and reskinned for the 2008 model year.

Ford has considered developing a global van for decades. Mulally's global vehicle initiative could put renewed vigor behind the efforts. The next-generation E series and Europe's full-sized Ford Transit could be developed on a global vehicle platform. The Transit is similar to the Dodge Sprinter van and is available in a variety of sizes and configurations, including fwd and rwd.

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