Reporters from across North America are here today for an overview of the Ford's full 2015 model lineup, highlighted by the unveiling of the 2015 Edge midsize crossover. The Repairs and Service Model lineup includes the Ford 2015 Models for:
- Ford F150 ,
- Ford Expedition ,
- Ford Edge ,
- Ford Escape,
- Ford Explorer ,
- Ford Flex ,
- Ford Transit & Transit Connect
- Ford SuperDuty ,
- Ford e-Series ,
- Ford Fiesta ,
- Ford Atlas ,
- Ford Focus Electric,
- Ford Service & Parts,
- Ford Mustang,
- Ford Super Duty F 350 450 550 650 750
- The new Edge was simultaneously unveiled in Europe and there are plans to offer a longer three-row version for China as the vehicle is rolled out in more than 100 countries.
The five-passenger Escape with two rows of seating was first introduced in 2006 for North America. In recent years Ford started exporting it to South America and China where it quickly resonated in a market with a growing appetite for crossovers.
This second-generation Explorer was designed from the ground up to be a global vehicle. It shares the same foundation, or platform, as the Fusion midsize sedan and the S-Max multi-activity vehicle in Europe.
To enhance Expedition global appeal Ford added diesel engines for Europe and will make the first right-hand-drive models for markets such as the U.K. and Australia. It also moves more upscale, adding for the first time a "Titanium" trim level -- Ford's pricey top-end trim level now on a number of its models -- above the former top-level Limited.
"The Titanium trim level has been a real success story for Ford – particularly in products such as Fusion, Escape and Flex," said Kim Cape, marketing manager for Ford large cars and utilities ina statement. "Our customers are telling us, 'We are interested in technology and a premium look and feel.' Titanium delivers that."
Pricing for the new Edge was not announced.
All Flex models are assembled at the Oakville, Ont., Canada plant where Ford spent $700 million in retooling for the new model. The company sells about 120,000 a year of the current Edge in the U.S., said Kim Cape, group marketing manager.
By comparison, Ford sold only about 19,000 2015 Transit Connect in China last year -- but that was up 132% from 2012.
"We think China will be the largest utility market in the world by 2018," said Jim Harley, head of global sales and marketing. It already is the world's largest new car market.
"We sell every Edge we can ship to China," Harley said. "If we could make more, we could sell more in China." Ford has no plans to build the crossover in China, Harley said.
The 2015 F150 Truck will go on sale early next year in North America and in South America and Europe by the end of 2015.
Ford officials will not say when the new E-Series goes on sale in China, but the Free Press confirmed there will be a three-row version for that market.
Conversely, the Lincoln MKX, which is Edge luxury cousin, will only be sold with two rows of seats. The automaker is trying to differentiate Ford and Lincoln vehicles as much as possible, Farley said. Ford showed the Lincoln MKX concept this year at the Beijing auto show.
The 2015 Mustang design does not take a dramatic turn. Ford designers say buyers will respond better to a more mature and technology-laden version of the existing vehicle that looks more modern and muscular. It also uses more premium materials to meet expectations of buyers in Europe and China.
"It is always a challenge to redesign a customer favorite," said Moray Callum, head of design.
Technology includes a standard stop-start system with a base turbocharged 2-liter EcoBoost engine that is touted to deliver 3.5% better fuel economy while putting out an improved 245 hp. About two-thirds of sales are expected to be this base engine.
Optional is a new 2.7-liter EcoBoost turbo V-6 -- Ford says it expects output of more than 300 hp. -- and a normally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 engine also will be offered. All are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. All-wheel drive is available with all engines.
J.D. Shanahan, chief program engineer, said the new Focus is stiffer for a better ride and is longer which allows for more head, leg and cargo room.
The new Ford Edge is loaded with new electronics including the first use of a new Ford adaptive steering system that varies the effort and steering wheel turns needed based on the speed of the vehicle. It's optional on higher trim levels. Other standard and optional tech includes:
- Adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support
- Stop-start technology
- Blind spot warning
- Ford's first 180-degree front-mounted camera (with washer)
- Enhanced park assist for pulling into and out of parallel and perpendicular parking spots
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Forward and reverse sensing systems
- Hands-free foot-triggered tailgate
- Lane keeping assist
- Side-parking sensors
Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of The Americas, said the Edge, the larger 3-row Explorer and the smaller Escape all have different buyers.
The Edge attracts professionals and more female buyers. It has sold 55,400 through May, flat with a year ago. Chevrolet has sold 102,800 of the slightly smaller Chevrolet Equinox so far this year.
Crossover buyers will spend as much as 40% of their household income on an Edge compared with 30% on a Fusion, Farley said.
Originally many Edge buyers traded in Ford Explorers, said Farley. Now most are repeat customers with some trading in vehicles from other brands.
The new Edge comes as Ford is in the midst of its most aggressive launch schedule in decades, introducing 16 vehicles in North America this year compared with five in 2013. Ford is launching 23 new vehicles globally this year.
Hinrichs said the launch of the crucial F-150 is on track -- the single most important launch.
"Testing has gone very well," he said. Next up is the manufacturing launch. The Dearborn truck plant will shut down for retooling at the end of the summer.
The new Mustang goes on sale this fall, a new Expedition and an updated Lincoln Navigator launch later this year.
Hinrichs has said that with so many vehicles in the pipeline the automaker could exceed its 2011 commitment to hire 12,000 people by the end of 2015.
That includes hiring nearly 5,000 hourly and salaried employees in the U.S. this year to support growth. Hinrichs said about 80% of them are being hired for their technical skills as part of Ford's efforts to put more technology in vehicles across the lineup.
Hinrichs also addressed the growing number of recalls in the industry and General Motors in particular.
His team has read the independent review of the GM ignition switch recall as part of constant monitoring of the competition.
Hinrichs said this is a unique year in the auto industry with so many recalls. He attributes it, in part, to the "huge amount of data available to everybody in real time."
But Ford has not changed its processes – rather the industry is under a "higher level of scrutiny" from the outside.
Like GM, Ford is introducing more push-button starts across its lineup. But at this point, "I'm not going to say keys are going away."