After years of focusing on its profitable SUV nameplates, Ford is now turning its full attention to its car lineup, revamping its Fusion/MKZ/Milan triage for 2010 and introducing new vehicles like the global Focus and European Fiesta to the U.S. market. The big SUVs that provided much of the company's revenue in the 1990s and early 2000s just aren't as profitable as they once were, and the elimination of what was at one time one of Ford's best-selling vehicles signals the blue oval's shift in direction.
At its peak in 1999, the Ford Explorer platform, which also underpins the Explorer Sport Trac pickup and Mercury Mountaineer, yielded sales of 556,372 units. But 9 years later, Ford was moving only 78,439 Explorers and just 49,281 Mountaineers. This year, sales are down more than 50 percent, putting sales of the SUVs at closer to 39,000 units for the Ford and 25,000 units for the Mercury variant.
Automotive News reports that the Ford Explorer SUV, along with the Ford Explorer Sport Trac pickup and Mercury Mountaineer SUV, will be dropped from the automaker's lineup after the 2010 model year. The Explorer name will live on, ditching its traditional body-on-frame construction for a unibody structure based on the Ford Flex/Lincoln MKT platform.
Although Ford combines sales of the Sport Trac with the Explorer, Automotive News projects the Sport Trac is on track to sell about 10,000 units this year--not enough to warrant the development of an open-bed version of the truck on the new unibody platform. With Ford's plans for Mercury to focus on small cars, the premium brand likely won't get a version of the new Explorer either.
Not to be left behind, Lincoln may share in the small-car renaissance as well. Automotive News says Ford is considering compact cars and crossovers for Lincoln in an effort to revive its luxury brand. Rumor has it the automaker is considering a small Lincoln based on the Focus platform--perhaps drawing cues from the Lincoln C concept that was shown at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in January--as well as a compact crossover.
Although the 2010 Lincoln MKZ had a major refresh, the Fusion/Milan triplet will be completely redesigned with its platform-mates for the 2013 model year, moving to a new global architecture. In 2011, the MKZ crossover will be refreshed, adopting the corporate cues that debuted with the MKS sedan in 2008. The MKS may also see a refresh in late 2011 or early 2012, with a full redesign expected in the 2015 model year.
The Lincoln Town Car, Lincoln's only rear-wheel drive car, will probably die after 2010 or 2011. The biggest question lies with the future of the Navigator. A scheduled 2012 redesign for the large SUV and its Ford sibling, the Expedition, was cancelled, indicating the two vehicles could be extinct at the end of 2011.
Although there's a lot of speculation circulating about its lineup, it certainly does seem that Ford is moving away from SUVs to focus its resources on new cars for all three of its brands. With quality vehicles like the 2010 Ford Fusion and 2010 Ford Taurus already available, we're looking forward to seeing what else lies in FoMoCo's future.
Source: Automotive News