DEARBORN, Mich. — The Ford Motor Company plans to challenge crosstown rival General Motors with a new family of rear-wheel-drive coupes and sedans, but the first of the new U.S. cars aren't expected to hit the street until model-year 2012.
IL has learned that Ford's Australian subsidiary will do much of the initial engineering work on the new rear-drive architecture
— in effect, borrowing a page from GM's playbook. The General's Holden subsidiary likewise is leading the engineering on GM's new Zeta rear-drive family.
Why Australia? Because the product development teams at both automakers have broad experience at developing rear-drive vehicles, including performance editions of standard production models.
Ford of Australia is preparing to launch a redesigned Falcon sedan in early 2008 and already has begun development work on the next-generation Falcon, which will continue with rear-wheel drive. Now, top executives at Ford headquarters in Dearborn want to expand that work to encompass derivatives for North America and perhaps Europe.
Ford suppliers know the future architecture generically as the "global large rear-wheel-drive vehicle platform."
Ford's plan for its new RWD/AWD range is relatively modest.
For North America, it is expected to include replacements for the Mustang, the Crown Victoria, the Grand Marquis and the Town Car
. For Australia, there will be replacements for the Falcon, Fairlane and LTD sedans. There may also be a new rear-drive flagship sedan for Ford of Europe.
Ford may even develop a car-based replacement for its Explorer SUV, using the new architecture, while its Australian arm will likely base the next-generation Territory tall wagon on the same component set.
Ford's new RWD/AWD platform is being engineered to accommodate both V6 and V8 engines, including the new twin-turbo gasoline direct-injection
TwinForce power plants that are being developed in Dearborn, as well as the company's new dual-clutch, six-speed PowerShift transmission. Among the TwinForce engines reportedly under development are a 3.5-liter V6 and a 5.0-liter V8.
The first of the new RWD/AWD vehicles for North America are expected to reach production in calendar-year 2011, according to suppliers, and would likely be marketed as 2012 models.
A prospective successor to the Crown Victoria could draw styling inspiration from the Ford Interceptor concept that made its debut earlier this year at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show, according to Ford insiders. The Interceptor was built from scratch, on a cobbled-up derivative of the Mustang platform, but its design cues point the way to a big Ford sedan of the future — it could be called Galaxie — that could function, in different guises and with different powertrain teams, as both family hauler and performance car.
Replacements for the Crown Vic, Grand Marquis and Town Car can't come too soon. The current cars are virtually dinosaurs, even by Detroit standards. They are built on a rear-drive platform code-named Panther that dates to model-year 1979. What this means to you: Ford CEO Alan Mulally apparently thinks GM's Australia-sourced RWD scheme is a good one, since he wants to copy it.