Ford to launch 23 models, add 5,000 US jobs in 2014
While it's likely one of the most anticipated, the redesigned Ford Mustang will be just one of 23 new models the automaker plans next year, according to Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of the Americas.
The company also intends to add 5,000 jobs in the U.S. and another 6,000 abroad, while opening three assembly plants, Hinrichs said during a media briefing. Along with the new products—16 of which are targeted at the core North American market—Ford aims to introduce two new versions of its high-mileage EcoBoost engine family.
The 2014 rollout will include more product launches "than in any other year in our history," Hinrichs said.
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He declined to discuss the new products in detail, but Ford has already revealed or hinted at some. They include the redesigned Mustang, the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKC crossovers, and the Super Duty version of its F-Series pickup. Industry analysts said they think Ford may also unveil an all-new version of its light-duty F-Series truck before the end of next year.
The automaker is hoping to build product momentum in the coming year, especially as it challenges key rivals such as General Motors and Toyota, which have significant product plans of their own. Ford has gained a half-point of market share in 2013—to 15.7 percent—but Toyota has been beating it in retail volume.
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Ford has been trying to balance its desire to increase sales and volume with an equally strong push to build margins and overall profitability. That has led the company to take a week of downtime this month at its Fusion sedan plant, despite a surge in demand for the midsize model. It also is reducing its production target for first-quarter 2014 by 2 percent.
Nonetheless, Ford is upbeat about the coming year.
After adding 14,000 U.S. jobs over the last two years, the company plans to bring on another 5,000 workers in 2014. Of those, 3,300 will fill salaried positions, many in research and development. Four hundred of those will be dedicated to powertrain development, with 100 focusing on battery-based technology. Because the U.S. and other key markets are rapidly tightening emissions and mileage standards, this could be a critical area for determining industry leaders.
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Ford has been pushing to expand its position abroad, and two of its three new assembly plants will be in China. The automaker was relatively late to enter that market, especially compared with GM and German rival Volkswagen. But its heavy push there has yielded a 50 percent bump in sales this year.
During the Thursday news briefing, Ford officials also discussed some of the technologies under development.
Raj Nair, who oversees global product development, revealed a prototype autonomous vehicle that features a number of systems that could be incorporated into Ford vehicles over the next few years, he said.
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"The Ford Fusion Hybrid automated vehicle represents a vital step toward our vision for the future of mobility," Nair said, adding that Ford will update its technology in 2014 to handle perpendicular as well as parallel auto-parking.
Executives said they also plan to make the stop-start technology more widely available. The system can automatically shut off an engine while a vehicle is idling at a stoplight, yielding as much as a 5 percent to 7 percent improvement in fuel economy, according to industry engineers.
Ford said it plans to offer it on 1 million vehicles sold in the U.S. by 2017.
It will "ultimately cover 70 percent of our North American nameplates," Hinrichs said.