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Mustang likely to get some stablemates
March 3, 2004
Watch for Lincoln and/or Mercury to wind up with a vehicle based on the Ford Mustang that's coming out this fall.
The 2005 Mustang
was expected to share platforms, or basic architecture, with the Ford Thunderbird and Lincoln LS, but will be built off a new platform instead. Ford, however, is committed to platform sharing and flexible manufacturing, building more than one vehicle off a platform in the same plant to cut development and production costs.
The '05 Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego cars and Ford Freestyle crossover, for example, share platforms with the Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicle, and all three, plus an unnamed Mercury crossover, will be built in Chicago.
"I'd be disappointed if Mustang was the only vehicle off that platform," said Barb Samardzich, executive director for small front- and rear-wheel-drive vehicles at Ford, which includes Mustang and Focus. "We could use it for other brands in the Ford stable. It would also make for a credible Lincoln."
Though she refused to elaborate, a source noted: "We're looking at vehicles to replace some existing Lincoln and Mercury cars as well as some cars for new segments to help them grow."
Perhaps a high-performance rear-wheel-drive Lincoln to rival the CTS-V addition to the Cadillac lineup?
Perhaps the concept rear-wheel-drive Lincoln Mark X roadster on this year's auto-show circuit could come off a derivative of the Mustang platform rather than the Thunderbird/LS platform on which it rested.
Samardzich was only a bit more open on plans for a low-priced, high-mileage car smaller than the compact Focus to attract those on a budget--namely youth.
"A small car is critical for our dealers and our company," Samardzich said in an interview. "When people come in looking for the cheapest car they can buy, it would be nice to have something other than Focus so that Focus can be a higher margin car."
The car likely would be developed with Mazda, in which Ford owns controlling interest. Mazda is helping develop 10 new Ford, Mercury and Lincoln cars, including the '06 Ford Futura and unnamed Mercury sedans plus a Lincoln crossover, off its midsize Mazda6 sedan platform.
"Leveraging another company" would be a smart and low-cost way to bring a new small car to market, she said.
A new small car would allow Ford to move Focus upscale rather than have it serve as its low-cost and low-profit entry-level model on which consumers expect incentives.
Chevy has done that with the Aveo, priced from less than $10,000, from its Daewoo operations in South Korea for '04. Aveo allows Chevy to replace the subcompact Cavalier with a more upscale, higher-price, higher-profit Cobalt this fall.
On this year's auto show circuit, General Motors also displayed a new family of small, rear-wheel-drive cars built off a new Kappa platform. The "under $20,000" Pontiac Solstice for '06 will be the first, and the Chevy Nomad sport wagon and Saturn Curve sport coupe await approval.
Samardzich insists a small rear-drive car isn't the way for Ford to go.
"I wouldn't say no, but traditionally rear-drive is for [higher priced] performance cars," she said. "I struggle with the idea of mass-produced rear-drive cars. While some see front-drive as a malady, those who live in the northern states feel safer with front- or all-wheel-drive."
This is why the midsize Five Hundred and Montego and Futura and its Mercury counterpart will offer front-wheel-drive as standard, and all-wheel-drive as an option, she said.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Transportation and Wednesday and Friday in Business. Hear him on WBBM-AM 780 at 6:22 p.m. Wednesdays and 11:22 a.m. Sundays.
Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune