Ford looks to streamline crossover, sedan lineups

January 17, 2018

Buy a new Ford Escape in a few years' time and there's a good chance you won't need to do much more than pick the color you want at a price that suits your budget.

The Detroit automaker said Tuesday at a conference put on by Deutsche Bank that it plans to reduce the "number of orderable combinations on Escape, Fusion, and EcoSport from thousands, to just 10 to 20 combinations for each vehicle" as part of Ford CEO James Hackett's bid to cut manufacturing, development, and marketing costs and increase profit margins. 

MORE: New Ford CEO slashes development budgets, plans to focus on trucks and electric vehicles

Today, Escape buyers can sort through several packaged and individual options to personalize their vehicles. That level of customization is increasingly unusual for mass-market new cars as automakers move toward to lineups that force buyers to make fewer decisions.

"It simplifies the buy process for shoppers, providing a more streamlined acquisition process," Cox Automotive analyst Rebecca Lindland told The Car Connection. "The downside for consumers is that they may not have the opportunity to customize their vehicle."

2018 Ford Fusion

2018 Ford Fusion

But Lindland points out that Ford knows what consumers buy and will shape trim levels and option packages of the future accordingly.

"Ford has a long order history for the Fusion and Escape that provides a good guide to hit up the vast majority of buyers," she said.

Reduced complexity is a boon for new-car dealers since it will trim the number of configurations dealers need to stock. Not only does it mean that a dealers are more likely to have "the right" car on the lot when a customer walks in the door, it means that tough-to-sell combinations could be a thing of the past.

Ford is the latest to follow Honda's decades-old lead in trimming build configurations. The Japanese automaker has never offered many individual options or packages and instead groups its cars by trim levels—the Civic LX, EX, and EX-L, for instance.

Additionally, Ford's Global Markets chief Jim Farley said at the conference that the automaker is looking to SUVs, crossovers, and pickups for growth.

“At the highest level, we need to narrow our full lineup of nameplates to a more focused lineup that delivers stronger growth, less risk and better returns," Farley said.

Ford told investors that its car lineup will shrink by about 10 percent, but that SUVs, crossovers, and pickups will pick up the slack. Farley's comments don't quite spell the death of the mid-size sedan, but the executive indicated that Ford is shifting investment in its products away from cars like the Fusion in favor of niche products like the Edge ST it debuted at the 2018 Detroit auto show and mainstream trucks like its new Ranger.

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