DEARBORN, Michigan – Attempting to address criticism of its rapidly aging product line, Ford on Thursday announced a product assault it says will give the automaker the newest showroom in the business by 2020, including a new unnamed off-road-capable sport/utility below the Bronco that’s coming next year, and a new Escape and Explorer.
The current Ford Escape, its second bestselling model after the F-Series, and playing in the hottest automotive segment today, has been on the market since the 2012 model year. The Explorer launched in model year ’13, but has increased sales every year since that introduction.
“You’re going to see two new Explorers today,” Jim Farley, president of Ford’s global markets, told an assembly of reporters, “along with the new Escape.” The new Ford Explorer lineup will consist of two models, he said; the standard Explorer and a new, sporty Explorer ST.
“Combined, (Escape and Explorer) alone will make the vast majority of our volume in the segment.”
SUVs and trucks will account for 90 percent of Ford’s North American volume by ’20, he said.
The product assault included no new information or talk of the Ford Focus or Fiesta, two cars expected to depart the North American market as the company concentrates on trucks and SUVs. The visually enticing portion of the program, unfortunately, is all embargoed indefinitely due to a pre-arranged agreement with the news outlets. This included a small, rugged off-road sport/utility Ford has in the works that will slot below the coming Bronco off-roader.
Farley also hinted there’s news to come about expanding the F-150 Raptor brand, but did not elaborate.
Ford gave us a look at the coming Mustang Shelby GT500, but gave few details, and nothing we can write about.
More than 75 percent of the current lineup will be replaced by 2020, said Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford’s global operations, “including four new nameplates.” The average product age will drop from 5.7 years of age to three years, he added.
Lincoln will unveil its new Aviator midsize sport/utility at the New York International Auto Show later this month, but Hinrichs’ remarks were centered on Ford Motor Company’s Ford brand, although the new architecture strategy will cover both brands. Ford is no longer calling them “platforms,” Hinrichs said. The architectures are:
- Front-Wheel-Drive Unibody
- Rear-Wheel-Drive Unibody
- Commercial Unibody
The new architecture strategy is part of Ford’s recently announced program to save $4 billion in engineering efficiencies.
Ford reiterated its accelerating commitment to electrics and hybrids, as announced early in 2017, when the company said a pure battery-electric vehicle, an F-150 hybrid, and a Mustang hybrid are on the way. It has not defined the level of hybrid power to be used in the F-150 and Mustang.
“Today, Ford Motor Company is the number-two seller of hybrids in the U.S.,” Farley said. “And in 2021, we expect to surpass Toyota to be number-one. We’re going to do this by making hybrids mainstream with our highest-volume, most profitable vehicles.
It’s Ford’s intention, Farley said, that every new SUV launched in the U.S. will come with a hybrid variant, either standard hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or both.
“For Mustang, it’s a performance play,” Farley added. “ Just imagine that V-8 acceleration from a hybrid. For F-150, the story is about helping owners do their job. They’ll get more low-end torque for pulling power, plus the benefit of (an on-board) mobile generator. And for our utilities, it’s about maximizing capability, plus serving as a hedge against higher gas prices.”
Inevitably, Ford execs spoke about expanding 4G-LTE virtually across the product lineup by 2019, with over-the-air update capability for Sync 3 coming a year later.
Farley also announced Ford Co-Pilot 360, “a suite of advanced driver-assist technologies that will be available on almost every Ford car, truck or SUV by 2020.”
The standard Co-Pilot 360 package will include automatic emergency braking for vehicles and pedestrians, blind spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, backup camera and auto high beams. (Ford believes customers want blind-spot warning systems more so than expensive adaptive cruise-control systems.) Customers will be able to add other features to the Co-Pilot 360 package, as well.