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Ford details future product plans

In the stable: Ford is still yet to reveal the revenant Bronco SUV, teasing the new model under a sheet at a press conference in Detroit overnight.

Hybrids, battery EVs, small off-road SUV, more performance models on Ford agenda

16 Mar 2018

FORD has outlined its North American product planning strategy for the rest of the decade and beyond, with a greater focus on hybridisation, battery electric vehicles (EVs), an expanded SUV line-up and more variants from the Ford Performance arm.

At a presentation at its native Dearborn, Michigan headquarters, the car-maker said it planned to greatly expand its SUV range, while teasing the upcoming reborn Bronco SUV and announcing an off-road-focused small SUV accompanied by a design sketch.

As already reported, the Bronco will be based on Ford’s Australian-developed T6 platform that underpins the Ranger and Everest.

Small design details of the small SUV, with rounded LED headlights, wide, slimline grille with the ‘Ford’ logo emblazoned in the middle, headlight bezels similar in shape to the original PX Ranger, flared wheelarches, a roof rack and what looks to be twin tow hooks integrated into the front bumper.

While the Bronco was kept under a mud-stained sheet, its profile suggests a boxy design similar to the original, with large flared wheelarches and a tailgate-mounted spare tyre.

Ford says it will reallocate US$7b (A$9b) in capital from passenger vehicles to SUVs, as it estimates up to 50 per cent of US retail sales could be comprised of SUVs by 2020.

It also estimated that its SUV sales would grow by 20 per cent to more than 950,000 units by 2020, more than double the average industry rate.

New versions of the Escape mid-sizer and Explorer large SUV will spur the growth, as the two models make up 70 per cent of the Blue Oval’s SUV volume in the US.

GoAuto has previously reported that the Explorer is being considered for right-hand-drive production, which would fill the seven-seat SUV hole in Ford Australia’s line-up, giving competition to the likes of the Mazda CX-9, Toyota Kluger, Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento.

Ford sells the Ranger-based Everest in Australia with seven seats but it competes against other pick-up-based offerings rather than the aforementioned family friendly offerings that have a monocoque, rather than ladder frame chassis.

The American manufacturer also announced that it would build its first battery EV that is due to be released in 2020. While Ford did not mention the vehicle by name, the company already confirmed at this year’s Detroit motor show that it would launch an EV SUV dubbed Mach 1 in 2020.

It will be the first of six electric vehicles due by 2022, in accordance with Ford’s US$11 billion (A$14.1b) global investment in EVs.

The brand also said it “is going all-in on hybrids”, and plans to offer hybrid variants for its most popular models including the F-150 pick-up, Mustang, Explorer, Escape and yet-to-be-revealed Bronco SUV.

Ford says its new hybrids will offer more space than today’s hybrid, and will be tuned to deliver performance that customers require. For example, the F-150 will be calibrated to deliver low-end torque for extra pulling power, while the Mustang will be about delivering V8-like performance thrills.

The car-maker has previously said the hybrid Mustang, which will team the 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder engine to an electric motor, will make comparable power to the 5.0-litre V8 version but with more torque.

Ford president of global markets Jim Farley said hybrids are becoming more mainstream, and Ford was looking to capitalise on the change.

“Hybrids for years have been mostly niche products but are now on the cusp of a mainstream breakout,” he said. “The valuable capability they offer – plus fuel efficiency – is why we’re going to offer hybrid variants of our most popular and high-volume vehicles.”

The Ford Performance range of high-powered vehicles will also expand to include 12 new models by 2020 including the not-for-Australia Edge/Endura ST and Explorer ST, which Ford estimates will help grow sales of the hi-po arm by 71 per cent by the turn of the decade.

While Ford Australia declined to comment on which parts of the announcement would affect the local line-up, it said it would choose products that best suit the Australian customer base.

Ford Australia finished 2017 with a total of 78,161 sales, largely on the back of the Ranger pick-up, which comprised 42,728 units in 4x2 and 4x4 form.

Last year’s sales were down 3.8 per cent over the 81,207 units in 2016, with the death of the locally manufacturer Falcon and Territory playing a part.

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