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Ford goes green, small, high-tech

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Ford goes green, small, high-tech

Jamie LaReau

Automotive News -- August 2, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

Better fuel economy and lots of consumer electronics, engine and safety technology will define Ford brand products in the next three years.

Ford Motor Co. says its products will appeal to environmentally conscious buyers. For example, the redesigned Explorer, which goes into production late this year, will offer a four-cylinder engine for the first time. This summer, the automaker added a subcompact, the Fiesta, aimed at younger buyers.

To attract those buyers, Ford is offering a $700 technology package on the Fiesta. The package includes a navigation system, heated cloth seats and consumer electronics such as MyKey, a programmable key; and the Sync in-car communication and entertainment system.

Here's a look at the Ford brand's three-year product plan.

Fiesta: The 2011 Fiesta subcompact comes in five- and four-door versions. The car could get a sporty variant in the 2013 model year with an EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. A restyling is due in the 2016 model year.

Focus: Ford will launch the redesigned Focus hatchback and sedan in the first quarter of 2011. The Focus, built on Ford Motor's new global compact platform, is sportier and more aerodynamic than the current model.

A performance version of the Focus is in the works and could come out for the 2013 model year under the SVT brand. A sticker price in the mid-$20s is expected. Ford is considering an EcoBoost engine for the car, either a 1.6-liter or 2.0-liter.

Still to be decided is whether the high-performance, all-wheel-drive RS model that is engineered and sold in Europe will be offered here. The issue is price: The current generation of the Focus RS is priced in the mid-$30s.

An electric version of the Focus is planned for the 2012 model year.

Mustang: Ford gave the 2011 Mustang new powertrains. The company re-engineered two engines for the car, a 3.7-liter V-6 and a 5.0-liter V-8. Ford also is offering a V-6 performance package for the 2011 model year.

For the 2014 or 2015 model year, the car will be restyled and re-engineered. Mustang turns 50 years old in 2014, so it would make sense for a bold design statement at that time.

Fusion: A redesign of the Ford Fusion and its Lincoln MKZ sibling is due in the 2013 model year. The two models will switch to Ford's global mid-sized platform, likely making them smaller than today.

The 2012 Fusion is likely to get a four-cylinder EcoBoost engine.

The Fusion and Fusion Hybrid enter the 2011 model year with more safety, technology and convenience offerings. Those include MyKey, available rain-sensing wipers and HD radio. Ford adds integrated blind spot mirrors to cars without the optional blind spot package.

Taurus: The 2011 Taurus adds MyKey and collision warning with brake support.

Ford will freshen the Taurus with mild styling changes and upgrades in technology in late 2011 or early 2012. At that time, Ford will offer a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine.

A redesign is not expected until the 2015 or 2016 model year.

Crown Victoria: Production of the Crown Victoria sedan and Lincoln Town Car will end in 2011. The Crown Victoria is sold to police and taxi fleets only. A heavily modified Taurus will replace it for police fleets. The Crown Vic is assembled in the St. Thomas, Ontario, plant, which is expected to close next year.

C-Max: The C-Max is a seven-passenger compact minivan that will be sold globally. It shares a platform with the next-generation Ford Focus. European sales begin late this year, and U.S. sales start in 2011. The first U.S. models will be assembled in Europe. C-Max production is likely to be added in 2012 at the Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne, Mich.

The C-Max will be offered with 2.0- and 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines, and it likely will get the 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine.

EcoSport: Ford is increasing its investment in Brazil to develop several global small vehicles, such as the next-generation EcoSport crossover. The EcoSport will share a subcompact platform with the Fiesta. Depending on the price of gasoline and the U.S. appetite for subcompacts, an EcoSport-like vehicle could come here in the next few years.

Escape: Ford will introduce a smaller, redesigned Escape for the 2012 model year with more carlike handling. The Escape will be a version of the next-generation Kuga compact crossover developed in Europe. The U.S. vehicle will be built here, probably in Louisville, Ky. A Lincoln product off the same platform is possible.

The Escape, Kuga and Focus will share Ford's compact platform.

The 2011 Escape adds HD radio and features such as the MyKey programmable key and the rearview camera system.

Edge: Ford reskins the Edge for the 2011 model year to make it bolder and more flowing. Engine enhancements are expected to boost fuel economy. Ford will offer three engines: an EcoBoost 2.0-liter four-cylinder, a 3.5-liter standard V-6 and a 3.7-liter V-6.

An Edge redesign is due in the 2014 model year. The vehicle will be smaller and sit on Ford's global mid-sized platform.

Explorer: The redesigned 2011 Explorer moves from a rear-drive, body-on-frame truck platform to the front-drive, unibody car platform that underpins the Taurus sedan and Flex crossover. Production ends at Louisville in November and moves to Chicago.

The Explorer offers a new four-wheel-drive feature that improves traction in mud, sand and snow. This feature adjusts the throttle input, engine speed, shift patterns and traction and stability control systems to provide the best traction under those conditions. The feature is available only on the V-6 model.

Ford is still touting the Explorer's off-road capability despite a 1.5-inch reduction in ground clearance and a 5-inch increase in width. The new Explorer has a more crouching athletic stance than the previous model.

The redesigned Explorer goes into production late this year. It will offer the 2.0-liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine and a 3.5-liter V-6 but no V-8 engine.

Five- and seven-passenger models will be offered.

Flex: The 2011 Flex will get a 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine. It's possible the vehicle could offer a 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine in the future.

The crossover will get a minor freshening for the 2012 model year. The grille will be revised and the Ford oval removed. The top-of-the-line Titanium trim will have the word "Flex" painted across the hood. The Titanium model comes out for the 2011 model year. Expect a reskin for the 2013 model year.

Expedition: No major changes are on the immediate horizon. Ford added some interior refinement to the 2011 Expedition, such as a headrest-mounted rear DVD system. Ford might freshen or reskin the SUV for the 2012 model year. At that time Ford might give it the 3.5-liter V-6 engine to improve fuel economy. The Expedition also could get the 5.0-liter V-8 engine currently in the 2011 Mustang to replace the 5.4-liter V-8 engine now in the SUV.

Ford may discontinue the extended-length Expedition EL in the 2012 or 2013 model year because of poor sales.

A redesign has been put on the back burner.

Ranger: Ford is expected to pull the plug on the aging Ranger in 2011. It's unclear whether the company will replace the compact pickup with another product.

Executives have said Ford might import a version of the next-generation small pickup sold outside North America. If so, the U.S. model would be based on Ford's T6 global compact pickup platform, engineered by Ford of Australia.

But this is unlikely because of the 25 percent tax on imported pickups. That tax would mean boosting the price of the Ranger close to that of the F-series trucks -- a tough sell for pickup buyers.

F-150: Ford will replace the powertrains on the 2011 F-150 early next year. The company will offer a 3.5-liter V-6 with EcoBoost turbocharging and direct injection. Ford also will offer a 3.7-liter V-6 and the 5.0-liter V-8 that the company adapted to the 2011 Mustang. All get a six-speed automatic transmission. Ford will put the 6.2-liter V-8 engine in the off-road Raptor F-150.

The F-150 will be redesigned for the 2015 or 2016 model year and switch to a new platform, called P552.

F-series Super Duty: This spring Ford launched a freshened 2011 Super Duty with a new in-house diesel engine and the 6.2-liter V-8. Maximum towing capacity is 24,400 pounds. A redesign is expected for the 2014 model year.

Transit Connect: Ford will launch the electric version of the compact fwd van in the fourth quarter.

U.S. production of the next-generation Transit Connect is expected no sooner than the 2014 model year. It will most likely be built in Louisville.

Econoline: Ford will replace the Econoline with a large van based on the next-generation Transit, which is sold outside North America. The timing is uncertain. Some sources think it will be for the 2014 model year.

BATTERY POWER

Ford Motor Co. plans to introduce 5 new electrified vehicles through 2012

• Ford Transit Connect electric: This year

• Ford Focus electric: 2011

• 2 hybrids with next-generation lithium ion battery: 2012

• Plug-in hybrid: 2012

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20100802/OEM04/308029998/1254#ixzz0vS6ZzyyE

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