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Ford's Future Analyzed - Global Architecture

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Unlocking Ford's secret plan
The world car is dead. Long live global architecture
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Link to Original Article @ Motor Trend


Ford of Europe's Focus is a fine car, one of the benchmark entrants in the hotly competitive C-segment, where it sells head to head against VW's Golf, Toyota's Corolla, GM's Astra, and a half dozen other rivals. So why are U.S. buyers lumbered with a Focus built on a platform nearly a decade old?

The answer has a lot to do with, ahem, the focus of the European Focus. In Europe, Focus-size cars are the heart of the market, not just cars for college kids and buyers on a budget; and European consumers want more features, more body-style variants, more powertrain options. A European Focus runs the equivalent of $19,000 to $30,000. That's way too rich for the American market, where Camry and Accord-size sedans start at about $20,000.

That's why world cars - the one-size-fits-all solution beancounters love - are tough for mainstream automakers. To get around this problem, Ford now wants to build its cars using a common process system rather than a single standardized manufacturing system.

What this means is instead of making sure every Focus around the world is built exactly the same way using exactly the same parts, the build sequence - from how the major components are brought together, to the points in space in the bodyshop where parts are welded - is identical.

Common process means products can be tailored to different market requirements while retaining the high degree of basic component commonality that helps cut costs and speed the development process. And it's not just about being able to build different body styles; even wheelbases and widths can be changed. Common process is what Toyota has been doing for a couple of decades, and what GM is now starting to do.

A key part of the Ford plan is centralized development of basic vehicle architectures. Example: The next-generation Focus architecture will be developed in Dearborn with Japanese and European engineers to ensure cost is kept low enough to make a version of the car viable for North American buyers, while giving Europeans the ability to deliver the unique body styles and features their markets demand.

Under this system, Ford's entire car portfolio can be boiled down to just five basic architectures:

  • Subcompact: Ford Fiesta, Ford Ka, Ford Ikon, Mazda2, European Ford Fusion
  • Compact: Ford Focus, Ford C-Max, Volvo C30/S40/V50/C70, Mazda3
  • Midsize: North American Ford Fusion, Ford Edge, Mercury Milan, Lincoln MKZ, Lincoln MKX, Volvo S60/V70, Mazda6, Ford Mondeo, Ford S-Max, Ford Galaxy
  • Large FWD: Ford Taurus, Ford Flex, Mercury Sable, Lincoln MKS, Volvo S80
  • Large RWD: Ford Mustang, Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, Lincoln Town Car, Ford Falcon, Ford Territory
The Ford rear-drive family
  • Long wheelbase - Lincoln Flagship, Fairlane/LTD
  • Mid-wheelbase - Crown Vic/Grand Marquis, Falcon/Territory
  • Short wheelbase - Mustang

The common process system allows some flex in wheelbase and width. The Australian Falcon is likely to be slightly smaller than the Crown Vic replacement, for example.

Ford has looked at doing a Town Car replacement (codenamed E386) off the D3 architecture used for the Five Hundred (now Taurus), Montego (Sable), and forthcoming MKS, but just can't make the platform wide enough.

The Territory is an AWD crossover built off the Falcon platform. It's logical the Aussies would want to retain the Territory, so the new architecture likely would be protected for AWD applications. That would help Dearborn, too, as it would make AWD versions of the Lincoln, Mercury, and Ford cars available for snowbelt states.

Ford Australia is likely to lose the long-wheelbase Fairlane/LTD variant of the Falcon (rival to the Holden Statesman) because of weak sales. But a global architecture means a Statesman rival (based on, say, the Lincoln) could be imported from the U.S. as a complete vehicle or assembled in Australia from stampings shipped from Detroit.

A global architecture means Ford could export U.S.-built rear-drive cars to markets like China, the Middle East, and Brazil, where GM has been increasing sales with Australian-built Commodore and Statesman-based cars.
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I still think Taurus and Vicky need to be consolidated into one car. This is where the AWD option comes in.

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it really depends if you are dead set on BOF or not. its traditionally been said that police departments and taxis and stuff want BOF. yet i see more police chargers and carious other taxis every day.

you basically need to decide if BOF should die. although mustangs are unibody? whatever the case, real RWD diehards don't want a predominantly fwd setup. to me, as long as you have a mustang, ford needs one chassis that is specific to rwd bias. although any sedan versions should still have the fwd option.

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I think that Ford is in desperate shape and that all this talk about a global RWD platform is just Internet and car magazine speculation/wishful thinking.

I think that the Taurus will be Ford's largest sedan in 5 years. I think D3 will be Ford's version of the W body and will be around for 10 to 15 more years, with styling updates. I look for the 2010/2011 Taurus to be updated in the same way Ford updated the Escape and Focus for 2008.

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Errr, if the Crown Vic is on the same wheelbase as the Falcon, it will be smaller than the Taurus. I don't think whoever wrote this has any idea of the comparitive sizes.

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All this talk about how police departments prefer body-on-frame (BOF) is either mythology promoted by Panther fans or ignorance on the part of police fleet buyers. Some of the best-ever cop cars were the unibody Chryslers. Nobody but nobody ever argued that the Dodge and Plymouth B, C and M bodies were not up to task.

it really depends if you are dead set on BOF or not. its traditionally been said that police departments and taxis and stuff want BOF. yet i see more police chargers and carious other taxis every day.

you basically need to decide if BOF should die. although mustangs are unibody? whatever the case, real RWD diehards don't want a predominantly fwd setup. to me, as long as you have a mustang, ford needs one chassis that is specific to rwd bias. although any sedan versions should still have the fwd option.

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Considering how far GM has progressed with its architecture setup, Ford really needs to get handle on things and follow through.

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Yawn!!!!! Saw this months ago! Where's the AutoWeek version and why hasn't this or the Chrysler Group futures for this year come out yet?

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I'm very happy to see RWD cars have a secure future at FoMoCo. This, along with Chrysler and *ahem* Hyundai (and I bet, Toyota), is another reason for GM NOT to delay Zeta any longer!
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I wonder if Ford will make a sedan off the short wheelbase large rwd architecture to compete with GM's Alpha cars when they arrive. Lincoln could certainly benefit from a smaller rear wheel drive sports sedan.

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I still maintain that the D3 and Panther cars should be consolidated into one replacement.

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