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Ford goes green, small, high-tech

Automotive News reports on Ford's new models plan.

Automotive News
2011 Ford Explorer
Ford showed the new 2011 Explorer in New York last week. Ford

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

According to Ford, its products will appeal to environmentally-conscious buyers. For example, on its redesigned Explorer, which goes into production late this year, Ford will offer a four-cylinder engine option 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 will come 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.

Ford is working on a performance version of the Focus that could come out for the 2013 model year under the SVT brand. We expect it to have a sticker price in the mid-$20,000s. Ford is considering an EcoBoost engine for the car, either a 1.6-liter or 2.0-liter.

Ford has yet to decide whether it will offer its high-performance, all-wheel-drive RS model--which is engineered and sold in Europe--here. The issue is cost: Ford prices its current-generation  Focus RS in the mid-$30,000 range.

Ford plans to have an electric version of the Focus available for the 2012 model year.

Mustang: Ford gave the 2011 Mustang new power trains. 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, Ford will restyle and re-engineer the car. The Mustang turns 50 in 2014, so it would make sense for Ford to give it a bold design then.

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 midsize 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.

Ford is not expected to redesign the Taurus 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. Ford will replace the Crown Victoria with a heavily modified Taurus 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 Ford will sell 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.

Ford will offer the C-Max will with a 2.0- and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and the minivan will 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 it developed in Europe. The U.S. version of the vehicle will be built here, probably in Louisville, Ky. A Lincoln product based from 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 look bolder and more flowing. Its engine enhancements are expected to boost its 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 midsize 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. Ford is stopping Explorer production in Louisville, Ky., in November and is moving it 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 that of 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; however, a V-8 engine will not be available.

Ford will offer five- and seven-passenger capacity models.

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. Ford will revise its grille and remove the Ford oval. 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 that  is 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 Ford will base the U.S. model on its T6 global compact pickup platform, which was engineered by Ford of Australia.

However, 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 2011 F-150 power trains 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 will get a six-speed automatic transmission, and Ford will put the 6.2-liter V-8 engine in the off-road Raptor F-150.

Ford will redesign the F-150 for the 2015 or 2016 model year and switch it to a new platform, which it calls P552.

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

Transit Connect: Ford will launch the electric version of the compact front-wheel drive van in the fourth quarter of 2010.

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

Econoline: Ford will replace the Econoline with a large van based on the next-generation Transit, which it sells  outside of North America. While the timing of its release is uncertain, some sources think it will be for the 2014 model year.

(Source: Automotive News)