Monday, August 15, 2005

Autoweek's take on future Ford models

Click the link and read AutoWeek's article on future Ford models. Not much of it is new, most of it has been written about here. Some of it is very interesting. After you read their article, come back and read my take on it.

It's a long one and my repsponse will be too;

OK, first AutoWeek says that the Fairlane concept is switching from the Mazda CD-3 platform to the Volvo D-3 platform. That's a good thing, making the proposed "people mover" a little larger. I wonder how different the production model will look from the concept

The CD-3 platform is going to be a key platform for Ford over the next few years, the new Fusion/Milan/Zephyr are based on this platform which is under the Mazda 6 and crossport models. This will also underpin the new Edge/Aviator crossovers coming to Ford/Lincoln over the next few model years.

The D-3 platform which was developed for the Volvo S-80/XC-90 models is the base for the new FiveHundred/Montego and Freestyle from Ford/Mercury. AutoWeek discusses how Lincoln will use this chassis and a stretched version for new models by 2010, including a possible new Continental. While I like this chassis and it can use the Yamaha V-8 that is in the XC-90 as well as allow Lincoln to have all wheel drive available, I'm not sure this is the wisest move.

Below the chart showing what AutoWeek understands will be the roll out from Ford over the next few model years, they go into more detail. They start off by talking about Ford's need to bring an entry level car below the Focus and discuss the possability of a Fiesta based car. I've been saying Ford should be doing this for months. The Fiesta could compete against the Korean and Chinese vehicles as well as Scions from Toyota.

They go on to say, that Ford will "redesign" the US Focus instead of bringing the European Focus platform here, saying that it would be too expensive. I don't blame AutoWeek for repeating the bullshit they hear from Ford. I blame Ford for the nonsense. How can the platform be too expensive if it comes here as the Mazda 3? I can't wait to see how they "redesign" the Focus and hope somebody will compare it to the European Focus. Is this a repeat of what happened with the Escort? Ford really killed that car in the US.

Fusion/Milan/Zephyr are discussed, without any real new information. They mention the 3.5L V-6 coming to the Zephyr and possibly not the Fusion/Milan. All these models are being built in Mexico. I've said it before and will say it again, while I wish Ford luck with the Zephyr, I feel it will bomb like the Verailes did in the late 70's. Why isn't Ford trying to compete with Chrysler's 300 ?

FiveHundred/Montego are next on AW's list. They mention that both will be freshened in 07/08 and the FiveHundred will receive it's new three bar grille. Also criticism of the car's lack of power will be addressed by the use of the new 3.5L V-6. The CVT will be dropped in favor of a new 6 speed auto. That's great news, I thought the CVT was a little too gimicky and feel it keeps people at arms length. Overall I think the FiveHundred is a fine car, although I wish they had gone for a different name, like Galaxy or Fairmont.

AutoWeek discusses Ford's unclear path for the Panther platform cars, Crown Victoria/ Grand Marquis/ Town Car. they say that a replacement for the Marquis could be pulled from the D-3 platform. Speculation that Ford could freshen the current sheetmetal in 2009 or let the platform die at decade's end are also mentioned. They mention speculation about using the slightly smaller Australian Falcon/Fairmont chassis has quieted down. Now most of you will know my feelings on this. Ford has to keep a fullsize rear wheel drive chassis for many reasons, not only fleet sales of Police units and cabs/limos, but because every other maker is bringing out full size rear wheel drive models. Look at Chrysler's success with the 300/Magnum/Charger lines. GM is on again for bringing the Zetta platform, including a possible Camaro modle before the end of the decade. Ford has a great platform in Australia and I'm not saying build the cars, there, import the design and build it here. With rear wheel drive and four wheel independant suspension this is a natural to compete with Chrysler and GM. Also with a little development work, the cars built on this platform could have all wheel drive as well. Ford of Australia builds the Territory on this chassis and that's a crossover wagon, much like our FreeStyle.

AutoWeek goes into more detail on Licoln, but that's been addressed above. They then have quick notes on the GT supercar and the possability of the Shelby GR-1 being released in 2008. I think these cars have little to do with Ford surviving so I have no real interest in either. Don't get me wrong, if I win the lottery I want one of each, but neither is going to be a boost to Ford's profits.

AutoWeek mentions the Brazilian EcoSport, but they fail to mention that it's available with all wheel drive. I've posted on this neat little SUV before and feel it could be a real competitor for the new Korean and Chinese models as well as Scion. Again built on the solid Fiesta platform.

AutoWeek goes on in the next few paragraphs to discuss freshening the Escape/Mariner and the Edge/Aviator and the FreeStyle/Meta One crossovers. Not much news there. Same thing with the Explorer/Mountaineer which have been redesigned for 2006.

Next comes the Epedition and Navigator which are to be redesigned for 2007 and gain a stretched version to compete with the GM Suburbans. A new 5.5 L Diesel V-6 is mentioned for Expedition and F-150, but it may be delayed until 2010. I'll keep my eyes open for news on that. A Diesel could go a long way in this segment as fuel prices approach the $3 mark and by 2010 will be much higher.

Next up is the new Sport Trac, which is coming out in 2006 as a 2007 model and will have an SVT variant with powerfull V-8 and AWD. I've never been a big fan of the Sport Trac, but this new version looks good.

The Ranger get's a paragraph and AW says that Ford will redesign it for the 2010 model year;

"After languishing for more than a decade, the Ranger is scheduled for a redesign. The next Ranger is expected for the 2010 model year. The current Ranger was redesigned for the 1993 model year.
But Ford's plans to redesign the Ranger have been delayed several times. As a result, Ranger sales are faltering. Suppliers are not counting on Ford to stick to this schedule either. If Ford goes ahead, the next Ranger could be a world pickup, shared with Asia and South America. The next Ranger likely will have a crew-cab option"

Anyone who's read my blog knows how important the Ranger is to me and how important I believe it will be to Ford. I want to point out to AutoWeek and my readers, that the current Ranger is a "world" pickup, already sold in many markets around the world (including crew cab models.) Don't they do their homework? Or is it too dificult to go to Ford's website and check this out?

AutoWeek, than gives a few words to Ford's fullsize trucks saying a redesign and restyling are due in 2009 for F-150 and Lincoln LT. Ford SuperDuty trucks can also expect a redesign around the same time.

And I want to quote AutoWeek on this ; "The workhorse van is expected to continue with no major updates for an indefinite period" Of course they are talking about the Econoline, which has changed little in the last decade or more. See my earlier posts on Ford's global van the Transit.

Lastly AutoWeek discusses minivans or "people movers" like the Fairlane, and the demise of the Freestar/Monterey. Ford will rely on their new crop of crossovers to fill the gap left by their departure from the minivan market. The Freestar has been a major disapointment anyway. GM is also pulling back from minivans in favor of "people movers" or crossover wagons.

Not a lot of news in this article and I've discussed most of these points in past posts, but worth the read.

Additional rant ; something was bothering me about AutoWeek's article where they discuss the Ranger. They state that the last redesing was 1993. I'm hoping that was a typo, because my memory puts it closer to 2003 (actually I think it was 2001) when the Ranger got new front sheetmetal and the new SOHC 4.0 V-6. I think that's enough to consider it a "redesign" and I believe there were other changes.What year did the Ranger switch to the torsion bar front suspension? I beleive that was after 1993. Maybe some of these changes were considered "evolutionary" but there were some major changes over that decade between 1993 and 2003. One of the guys I work with has a 2003 Ranger and he parks it next to mine (1999) from time to time and the differences are obvious. I don't want to pick on AutoWeek, but some of their errors are surprising for such a fine magazine. If there is anyone who considers themselves a Ranger expert, please comment and tell me what you think.


J G Halmayr said...

Changing the suspension and tweaking the sheetmetal in 2001 is not enough to be considered a redesign, in my opinion. I consider it a redesign when the greenhouse changes, since you have to make new doors and that's very expensive. Why Ford has let the Ranger languish is beyond my comprehension.

Big Ford Fan said...

JG, you may be right, but didn't they also increase the cab size in 2001? I know if I park my Ranger next to a newer one it seems larger. Could be a result of the front sheetmetal though.