Big changes are coming to Ford by 2020 – Execs lay out roadmap in “Ford Uncovered” event
The landscape of the automotive industry is changing at breakneck speed. As automakers consistently move to introduce new designs, new technologies, and new marketing strategies, it can be difficult to keep up. In the next two years alone, Ford seeks to revamp 75% of its lineup, according to CEO Jim Hackett. Its current average showroom age of its models currently stands at 5.7 years. That means, on average, the current model lineup goes about that long between generations. Ford’s planning to change that by introducing all-new models, as well as revamping aging platforms. That includes the fifth-generation Explorer, introduced in 2011, and the third-generation Escape, which came to the U.S. market in 2012.
However, the company’s ambitions are greater than just introducing new models. Befitting Hackett’s prior role heading up its Smart Mobility subsidiary, Hackett emphasized connectivity in today’s “Ford Uncovered” event. The company also plans to reduce costs while simultaneously speeding up its product development cycle through the use of “flexible architecture”. What does that mean? In future Ford vehicles, 70% of the “value” of each vehicle will come from the flexible architecture. In other words, cars will share similar basic underpinnings along the same architecture. The other 30% will feature components bespoke to a certain vehicle’s design.
Not only are the architectures changing, as is the speed of development – so are the powertrains. Ford is doubling down on hybridization, moving in step with other manufacturers, and has outlined a plan to push harder toward electrification in the coming years.
Ford’s Product Plan: Shift toward trucks, SUVs
SUVs will account for half of all U.S. sales, according to Ford’s estimates. To that end, they’re moving $7 billion away from cars toward development of SUVs. What can you, as a consumer, expect from that shift? A lot more SUVs, as it turns out. By 2020, Ford will revamp the rest of its SUV lineup, plus introduce new models into the fold. On the revamp list are the Escape and the Explorer. Both of those models are coming as 2019 models, and will join the all-new EcoSport and recently revised Expedition.
In addition to nameplates we already have, we’ll see some more fresh blood enter the lineup as well. The company is expanding its off-road lineup into SUVs, in the spirit of their Raptor trucks. Following the current F-150 Raptor and impending (at least in the global market) Ranger Raptor, Ford will introduce two new off-road focused SUVs. One is a new, small off-road SUV. The other one is much more familiar: the new Bronco. Anticipation for the nameplate is sky-high, and while we have a teaser of the smaller offering, Ford isn’t ready to take the wraps off the new Bronco just yet.
Performance SUVs are also in focus by 2020. In addition to the Edge ST shown at Detroit, Ford will introduce an Explorer ST as well. That comes as part of a lineup of eight total SUVs, five of which will have hybrid powertrains. At this time, however, Ford is only applying the ST treatment to the Edge and the Explorer.
There’s also one battery electric SUV coming to market, but Ford has not released any details for this new model at time of writing.
Don’t worry, Ford didn’t forget about the Mustang
In addition to the Explorer and Edge ST, Ford still has a trick up its sleeve in the performance department. You all know what that means – the new Mustang Shelby GT500. We broke the news on that back in Detroit. Back then, all we saw was a short video with the message “the legend returns.”
Now, we can see a bit more than that. While the company, by and large, is moving toward more efficient vehicles based on the flexible architecture, they’re not leaving Mustang enthusiasts out in the cold. No more information on the car is available at this time, except that, per the January video, it will be packing more than 700 horsepower.
Driver assistance is the name of the game for future models
While we’re not at full autonomy in cars yet, Ford’s stepping up its game in driver assistance tech. Enter “Co-Pilot360”, which is the company’s next generation safety suite. As Ford introduces revamped and new models over the coming two years, Co-Pilot360 will be standard across all car, SUV, and truck models.
The system itself offers the safety tech you’d expect. Blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, and automatic high beams are all there. In Ford models moving forward, however, all those features will be standard equipment. This technology will feature in Ford’s commercial vehicles as well.
Hybrids, hybrids, and more hybrids
Ford is moving to hybridize its entire lineup, including their most popular and high-volume models. We know an F-150 Hybrid is coming, but Ford also plans to hybridize the Escape, Explorer, Bronco, and Mustang. “Hybrids for years have been mostly niche products, but are now on the cusp of a mainstream breakout”, said Jim Farley, Ford’s President of Global Markets. Not only will fuel efficiency be the name of the game, but they’re also tackling capability in the Mustang. When a hybrid version does come to market, it will purportedly offer “V8-like performance” with “more low-end torque”.
Speeding up product development
Ford seeks to improve its “operational fitness” by speeding up the rate at which it brings products to market. To come down on the 5.7 year average showroom age, the company aims to improve development time by 20 percent. What does that mean to you, the consumer? Instead of cars coming out every six years, Ford will develop new models every 3.3 years, on average.
Ford is also simplifying its lineup, decreasing the number of “orderable combinations” for each of their models. That’s being done to improve the company’s bottom line and increase overall efficiency. Vehicles will share the “flexible architecture” mentioned above and 4G LTE connectivity to make what vehicle options remain better.