The future is electric, industry leaders tell us, but it will also have room for cargo. Lots and lots of it.
In announcing its near-future product plans on Thursday, Ford Motor Company promised the replacement of “more than 75 percent of its current portfolio” by 2020, with sport utility vehicles filling the sales void created by declining car volume. By the start of the next decade, only 14 percent of sales will come from cars, Ford predicts.
Meanwhile, at Lincoln, there’s good reason to believe the automaker’s luxury brand might enter the coming decade completely carless.
Ford detailed the new product offensive via a flurry of media releases and through a media chat with top brass at the automaker’s product development center. As we told you yesterday, the changes mean eight SUVs in Ford’s lineup, up from today’s six. A baby off-roader joins the reborn Bronco, due out in 2020.
Going forward, Ford plans to use five modular architectures for all of its vehicles:Â body-on-frame, front-wheel-drive unibody, rear-wheel-drive unibody, commercial van unibody, and battery electric vehicle. These architectures make up 70 percent of the vehicle’s engineering, with the remainder amounting to a unique skin for different models.
Ford’s aiming for a product development cycle (paper to showroom) that’s 20 percent shorter than in the past. This stems from its promise to not only deliver new products in a speedier fashion, but also find $4 billion in engineering efficiencies.
According to Jim Farley, Ford’s head of global markets, every new or redesigned SUV will now come with a hybrid variant. This could mean a conventional hybrid (Ford says it has found a cheaper way of doing it), a plug-in version, or a combination of both.
“They’re an accepted, reliable technology, and we want to make them as emotional and valuable as the desirable EcoBoost,” Farley said.
Ford wants to go head to head with Jeep in some areas, while distancing itself from the off-road brand in other ways. Hybrids, for one thing, but also performance. We’ve already seen Ford come out with an Edge ST, and the more capacious Explorer â€” which goes rear-drive for 2020 â€” will soon see its own high-horsepower ST variant.
“We don’t just want to be in the generic SUV business. We want to be either in the performance or in the high-speed, off-road business,” Farley said.
Mentioning Jeep and Land Rover, Farley added, “Both of these vehicles are for a growing group of people who want to simplify their life and get out there with their family and friends. For Jeep, that’s rock-crawling in Moab. For Ford, our people want true off-road vehicles that are comfortable at high speeds. They don’t want SUVs that look like doomsday vehicles or have spartan, government-issued interiors.”
(Hmmm… we’re inclined to believe there’s more than a few prospective Ford buyers who like the doomsday vehicle look.)
The Lincoln brand, which has recently fallen on hard sales times, stands to see two new SUV models by 2020, including the Explorer-based Aviator. The MKX undergoes a name change (“Nautilus”) for 2019. Four more utility vehicles will appear after 2020, Farley said, without going into specifics.
Given that the Ford Fusion-based MKZ appears doomed, and the flagship Continental along with it, this could mean an all-crossover-and-SUV lineup for the brand that, until the late 90s, had zero such vehicles.
In the fledgling electric vehicle class, Ford’s plans have changed. It’s now aiming for a 50 percent decrease in capital investment and a 30 percent increase in labor efficiency, all in the hopes of making an affordable vehicle that can also turn a profit. Six Ford EVs are in the pipeline for the 2020-2022 period.
Amid all this news of off-roaders, hybrids, and battery-powered vehicles, one long-running but barely thought-of model just saw a reprieve. The E-Series, once known as the Econoline, still exists in a cutaway bodystyle for commercial buyers. While the Transit and smaller Transit Connect have stolen the model’s van sales, Ford claims the E-Series will soldier on into the 2020s. A new Windsor-built 7.0-liter V8 engine is in the works to replace the ancient 6.8-liter Triton V10.
[Source: Automotive News] [Images: Ford]