In an unprecedented move that may reshape the entire auto industry, Ford will stop building all sedans and hatchbacks and shift production to crossovers and trucks. It is, by far, the company’s most dramatic production change in its 115-year history since Henry Ford adopted the assembly line.
In its first-quarter statement on Wednesday, the company said it will only sell two cars for the U.S. market within the “next few years” and that it will “not invest in next generations of traditional Ford sedans for North America.” In a separate post on Medium, Ford CEO Jim Farley said Ford’s trucks and SUVs will soon become 86 percent of the company’s U.S. volume. In its statement, Ford said it will rely solely on a two-car lineup, the new Focus Active-a raised, body-cladded version of its all-new Focus hatchback (a crossover, in other words)-and the Mustang.
Since Ford recently refreshed its Fusion sedan for the second time, that car will stick around the longest-at least for the next couple of years, according to company spokesman Said Deep. The Taurus, which still sits on the same Volvo-based platform as the current Explorer, will cease production by March 2019. The subcompact Fiesta sedan and hatch will die in May 2019. The C-Max, Ford’s only dedicated hybrid in the U.S. market, was dropped last year. The plug-in C-Max Energi will disappear this May.
“The traditional sedan that serves all these buyers will evolve into something else,” Deep told C/D. “It doesn’t mean that you’re abandoning that buyer.”
The all-new 2019 Focus will drop its sedan variant (and most likely the regular five-door hatch) when the Wayne, Michigan, plant stops production of the current generation and makes room for the Ranger pickup next year. Until hybrid versions of the Mustang, F-150, and more crossovers debut, the Fusion Energi will be Ford’s only plug-in until its dedicated “performance utility” EV arrives in 2020. The future of Ford’s premier performance hatch, the Focus RS, is still under consideration.
Ford said it will explore “white space” vehicle designs that are essentially crossovers or faux-utility vehicles that disguise their traditional car shapes with higher ground clearance, body cladding, and all-wheel drive.
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Ford’s decision makes Fiat Chrysler’s move in 2016 to ax two of its sedans appear tame. At the time, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne defended the move to investors as a quick way to increase production of more profitable Jeeps and Ram pickups. Crossovers and SUVs have quickly come to represent more than half of the total industry’s U.S. sales, while sedans and small cars have been sinking. Now, with fewer cars on the market, it appears they will sink more.
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