Ford USA To Draw on European Lineup for Improved Fuel-Efficiency, Profitability

By Scott Doggett July 14, 2008

Kuga750.jpg Future U.S.-bound Ford Explorers will likely be based on the European Ford Kuga crossover, right.

With high gasoline prices pressuring truck profits, making the Ford brand vehicle lineup fuel-efficient and profitable is Job 1 at Ford Motor Co. these days.

CEO Alan Mulally's product strategy calls for globalizing several small- and medium-size vehicles from Ford's European operations.

The new vehicles will be more premium than previous forays into the U.S. small-car business, but executives intend to make the investment pay by spreading costs across global volume.

Amy Wilson, a reporter for Automotive News Europe, did a fine job today of summarizing Ford's lineup for the near future. Because ANE is a subscription service that you likely don't have access to, we're going to post the summary here, with input from Green Car Advisor as warranted.

Fiesta: The 2011 Fiesta will be the first modern-day, globally engineered Ford car to be sold in North America. For vehicle details, check out our take on the Fiesta, posted earlier this month.

Ford of Europe has marketed a Fiesta-badged car since 1976. The redesigned Fiesta goes on sale in Europe this year and in North America in early 2010.

The Fiesta is a subcompact, smaller than the Focus; it competes in the industry's so-called B-segment. Ford developed the Fiesta in Europe, adopting the new front-wheel-drive vehicle platform engineered by Mazda.

Ford will build U.S. models in its assembly plant in Cuautitlan, Mexico. Two body styles are planned: a sedan and a five-door hatchback. U.S. volume could be about 90,000 units annually.

Multiactivity vehicle: Ford is considering a second vehicle developed on the front-drive Fiesta underpinnings. The vehicle could be styled as a small crossover or minivan and built at Ford's assembly plant in Louisville, Kentucky, as early as the 2012 model year.

Focus: The redesigned Focus will debut for the 2011 model year. The car will be based on the next-generation European Focus and will follow the Fiesta as Ford's second global car for North America. The 2011 Focus will come in sedan and five-door hatchback body styles.

The 2011 Focus will be the first of a family of compact, or C-segment, cars for North America based on Ford's next-generation C1 platform. C1 underpins the Focus sold in Europe but not the current North American Focus. Ford is likely to assemble the next-generation Focus and other models based on this platform at plants in Wayne, Michigan, and Louisville.

C-Max: Ford sells this small minivanlike vehicle in Europe. North America is expected to get the next generation for the 2012 model year. The C-Max, code-named C344, likely will share assembly capacity with the Focus in Wayne.

Fusion: The restyled 2010 Fusion and a hybrid version will go on sale in early 2009. The Fusion's sheet metal from the A-pillar forward will be new.

The Fusion now is based on a modified Mazda 6 platform, but it is expected to move to a new global platform for the 2013 model year. The redesigned Fusion is expected to be built on a reengineered version of EUCD, the front-wheel-drive platform underpinning the Mondeo, Ford's midsize entry in Europe.

Taurus: Ford will reengineer and restyle the Taurus sedan in early 2009 for the 2010 model year. The new Taurus goes into production next spring with new styling that makes the car look lower and sleeker. The car remains on the same D3 platform, but Ford is expected to adapt many of the upgrades engineered for the 2009 Lincoln MKS.

Crown Victoria: Ford's large rear-wheel-drive dinosaur likely will die early next decade along with its siblings, the Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Towncar.

Ford is building the three cars on one shift at its plant in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. In May, Ford told the Canadian Auto Workers that it would keep that plant open into 2011, one year longer than previously planned. The Crown Victoria no longer is sold to retail customers. It is sustained by fleet buyers that use it for taxi and police cars.

Large RWD car: Ford is rethinking its plan to build a new generation of rear-wheel-drive cars for the Ford and Lincoln brands. In January, executives confirmed that the models were in the cycle plan. They didn't disclose timing, but analysts expected U.S. sales to start with the 2013 model year. The platform was to be shared with a large car developed for Australia.

But Ford product chief Derrick Kuzak now says his team is "relooking" at the RWD plan. Work on the program is continuing, Kuzak said, but he acknowledged that could change. "We need to understand the role of those vehicles, given the change in the market mix," he said.

Even if the project ultimately goes forward, sources say timing could be pushed back to the 2014 model year or beyond.

Mustang: The 2009 Mustang will have an abbreviated seven-month production run, producing only about 45,000 units. Most 2009 Mustangs will have a 45th anniversary badge.

The 2009 model year ends early so Ford can switch to the reskinned, reengineered 2010 Mustang. The car is expected to be shown at the Los Angeles auto show in November. Sales begin early in 2009.

The 2010 Mustang is expected to be equipped with carryover powertrains.

The next-generation Mustang was expected to move to the new global RWD platform around 2012, but that may not happen if the large RWD cars are canceled. In that event, Ford likely would rework the Mustang's current underpinnings.

Escape: Ford made powertrain and chassis upgrades for the 2009 model, which went on sale this summer. Ford bumped up horsepower in the four-cylinder Escape by 11 percent, to 171 horsepower The V6 Escape saw a 20 percent gain, to 240 hp.

Ford is expected to replace the vehicle for the 2012 model year. The redesigned Escape will be based on the next-generation Ford Kuga crossover, which debuted in Europe this summer. The Kuga is built on Ford's C1 platform, which also underpins the European Focus.

The Escape replacement is expected to be slightly smaller and more fuel-efficient than today's model. Styling will be more carlike than today's SUV-influenced Escape design. The Escape replacement and a companion for Lincoln are expected to be assembled at the Escape plant in Kansas City, Missouri.

Edge: Ford is expected to reskin the Edge for the 2011 model year. As with the Fusion, the update will be more extensive than was Ford's past practice. The Edge's sheet metal from the A-pillar forward will be new. The rear likely will include a restyled hatch, fascia and taillights.

The long-term future of the Edge is unclear. Like the Fusion, it could migrate from its existing Mazda6-derived platform to Ford of Europe's front-wheel-drive EUCD platform around 2013. But sources say Ford also is considering whether to do a single replacement for the Edge and the larger Explorer SUV.

Explorer: Once a cash-producing machine for Ford when gasoline prices were lower, the Explorer is expected to get a new lease on life by moving from a truck frame to a unibody FWD car platform.

The Explorer's styling will be based on the Explorer America concept shown at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, and it will be developed on Ford's reengineered D3 vehicle platform. The Taurus and Mercury Sable are built on the current D3. A turbocharged four-cylinder engine is likely to boost fuel economy.

Timing for the redesigned Explorer is fluid. Production originally was expected for the 2011 model year at Ford's Chicago assembly plant.

Several sources say Ford has put the project on hold as it rethinks what crossovers and SUVs to drop. At one point, it looked as if the redesigned Explorer could be pushed back to 2012, the sources said. But Ford told one source close to the project last month that the timing was back on for the 2011 model year.

Explorer Sport Trac: The future of the Sport Trac, an Explorer-based pickup, is unclear. Ford has considered doing a unibody pickup when the Explorer moves to a car platform, but the pickup version also could be dropped when the Explorer becomes a crossover.

Flex: The new 2009 Flex is Ford's seven-passenger people mover. Sales began in June. Ford expects to sell 75,000 to 100,000 of the boxy, three-row crossover annually.

The FWD Flex is built on Ford's D4 platform, which was created by stretching the D3 platform's wheelbase 5 inches and reducing the front and rear overhangs. All-wheel drive is available. The Flex is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 combined with a six-speed automatic transmission.

A restyling is planned for the 2012 model year.

Expedition: Ford may freshen the large SUV for the 2010 model year.

Before gasoline prices spiked, Ford's plan called for a redesigned Expedition to go into production for the 2012 model year. The weight of the next-generation Expedition was expected to be a little lighter than today's.

If higher gasoline prices don't persuade Ford to drop large SUVs, the next Expedition will be produced alongside the new F-100 midsize pickup at Ford's truck plant in Wayne. Ford's plan calls for the SUV and pickup to share underpinnings and some front-end exterior styling.

Ranger: The small pickup had been scheduled to die, but now Ford is considering extending Ranger output by as much as two years. The automaker had been expected to end Ranger production in fall 2009 when it planned to close its assembly plant in St. Paul, Minnesota.

What may give the Ranger new life is the relatively high miles-per-gallon capability stemming from the standard four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission.

Ford may keep making the aging Ranger into the 2011 calendar year. While it's unlikely that Ford would invest in any significant update in the truck, changes may be made to comply with federal rollover mandates.

Ford eventually could replace the Ranger with a small pickup developed on a new global architecture Ford of Australia is developing, called T6.

F-100: Ford is developing a smaller version of its flagship F-Series pickup. The new pickup, code-named P525, could be called F-100; it is scheduled to go into production in mid-2011 for the 2012 model year.

The pickup is based on a lighter version of the F-150 chassis and would share front-end sheet metal with the next-generation Expedition, if that vehicle is produced. The F-100 would be offered in a crew-cab model only.

The trade-off for the lighter frame is reduced capability. The F-100 is aimed at buyers who want a pickup but do not need to tow 10,000-plus pounds or carry 3,000-pound loads.

A performance version of the F-100 that tops 400 hp is a possibility.

F-150: Talk about bad timing. Ford is launching the 2009 reengineered, restyled F-150 in a terrible market for pickups. The 2008 models stacked up at dealerships as gasoline prices rose.

The inventory overload and drop in demand caused Ford to push back the on-sale date of the 2009 truck by two months and eliminate two shifts of production. The 2009 F-150 now is expected to go on sale in late fall. Ford plans to build more basic work trucks and fewer high-end models.

The 2009 F-150 has an all-V8 engine strategy. Ford has dropped a base V6 for now. Executives say a turbocharged V6, part of Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine family, will be added in 2010.

The three engines for the 2009 model are a 5.4-liter, three-valve V8; a 4.6-liter, three-valve V8; and a 4.6-liter, two-valve V8. They are paired with a four-speed automatic or a new six-speed automatic transmission.

F-Series Super Duty: A freshened Super Duty is expected for the 2011 model year.

Transit Connect: Ford will import the 2010 Transit Connect, a small delivery van sold in Europe. The FWD van is assembled in Turkey on a reinforced version of C1, the European Ford Focus platform.

Ford is expected to build the Transit Connect in North America for the 2013 model year. Assembly location likely will be in Louisville. With higher gasoline prices, Ford anticipates demand for a four-cylinder, fuel-efficient van that can be used for small-item delivery or by some tradespeople.

Econoline, Transit: After decades of flirting with the idea, Ford plans to move to a single global full-size van platform. The van, code-named V363, will be based on the Transit van now sold in Europe. The Transit is available in a variety of sizes and configurations, including FWD and RWD.

The North American Transit is expected to go into production for the 2012 model year at Ford's assembly plant in Avon Lake, Ohio, which now produces the E-Series van. The E-Series, also called the Econoline, is expected to be discontinued when U.S. production of the Transit begins.

Sources said Ford expects global Transit volume of between 400,000 and 500,000 vans annually.

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