View Full Version : The Mini Van is Dead..... At least at Ford

01-24-2005, 06:29 PM
Ford may pull the plug on minivan<p>By Amy Wilson<br>Automotive News / January 24, 2005<p>The Ford Fairlane concept could be one of three vehicles replacing the Freestar minivan.<p>DETROIT -- After 20 years of stumbles, Ford Motor Co. is poised to give up on the minivan.<p>With Ford a perennial also-ran in the minivan segment, company executives seem ready to cut their losses and move to a selection of family haulers. The Fairlane concept, exhibited at the 2005 Detroit auto show, is Ford's latest take on a mainstream people mover.<p>With Land Rover styling cues and a wide expanse of glass, Fairlane departs significantly from the one-box minivan of the past. Based on a modified Mazda6 platform, it is largely ready for production. Ford product executives have said the next-generation minivan would migrate to the Mazda6 platform.<p>"We're looking for the next thing, and it might be the Fairlane," Ford Division President Steve Lyons says. "If we added something like Fairlane, I think we're done. It would be too crowded to try to fit a traditional minivan in there."<p>Blend No. 3<p>Though not approved, Fairlane would be the third Ford product blending attributes of minivans, SUVs and cars. The Freestyle sport wagon was introduced last fall. Another Mazda6-derived sport wagon, internally called the Ford Edge, is slated to debut in 2006.<p>More nameplates with smaller volumes may work better than trying to cover the market with one minivan, executives say. The Freestar is struggling to sustain 100,000 units of annual volume.<p>Fairlane could take the "diaper" stigma away from conventional minivan buyers by giving them an upscale ride, Ford design chief J Mays says.<p>But it must be affordable for mass market Ford Division customers. Fairlane is outfitted with a canvas top likened to a polo helmet. Video at the auto show depicted it as the choice of an old-money crowd at play in the Hamptons.<p>"Our people don't know too much about polo," Lyons says. "Football? OK, we're into that. NASCAR. So is this, in fact, a Ford? There are elements that could very well be. But if that vehicle is $45,000, I'm not interested."<p>A $25,000 price is more realistic, he says.<p>Mays says the Fairlane's upscale styling doesn't require a high price tag. "It just doesn't cost any more to bend the sheet metal that way," he said.<p>Unlike at the Chrysler group, where minivans are a crucial profit center, Ford may be able to pull the switch. "We're not making any money at it in any big way," Lyons says.<p>But Ford's freedom to exit the segment points out how it bungled its minivan efforts.<p>Minivan woes<p>In 1976, Ford passed on the minivan concept pitched by executive Hal Sperlich. Sperlich went to Chrysler, which popularized the segment in 1983.<p>Ford countered with the trucklike, rear-drive Aerostar. Ford switched to front-drive with the Windstar in 1994, but Chrysler quickly one-upped Ford by adding a left-side rear sliding door.<p>By 2003, when Ford launched the Freestar, a re-engineered Windstar with little visual change, executives said exterior looks didn't matter. Customers couldn't tell minivans apart, they said.<p>But Ford conceded it renamed the vehicle in part to signal to consumers that its entry was new. It didn't work. Combined Windstar and Freestar sales plunged by 19.9 percent in 2004. Incentives soared, and Ford's minivan plant in Oakville, Ontario, underwent numerous shutdowns. Executives now acknowledge they<p>didn't change the exterior enough.<p>You may e-mail Amy Wilson at awilson@crain.com<p> <IMG SRC="http://premium1.uploadit.org/ascariss/fair01.jpg" BORDER="0">

Naga Royal Guard
01-24-2005, 06:35 PM
DCX is chopping up this market, Toyo and Honda are cutting up some of it too, those POS CSVs were a joke from day #-5; but the fairlane should be cool

zwei Biere bitte
01-24-2005, 07:16 PM
Wow, Ford is kinda missing out here IMO. They didn't even try with making the Freestar a decent vehicle. Even though it's one of the newest minivans on the market, it lags way behind all of its other competitors. This reminds me of the Taurus/Sable, Ford had a hot seller on their hands, put no effort into redesigning it, and turned it into trash. <p>I bet if Ford made a decent attempt at making a minivan for once, they might actually do pretty well.

01-24-2005, 08:40 PM
I think thats what they are trying to do with the Fairlane. If the fairlane is made it would surely cause a lot of buzz because of the styling which I happen to like very much. The freestar, unlike the taurus was never a sales leader. right from the get go in 1994, it was trash. So the two cannot be talked in the same light. <p>This news is well welcomed, I can't wait to see the fairlane materialize into production. And I doubt it would be nitche and the styling is much more pleasant than nissan's radical effort, It might just become mainstream.

01-25-2005, 08:12 AM
It seems at least one domestic is getting the same ideas the Imports have. If it doesn't work the first time, go back make it different, make it better, and you'll have a hit.

01-25-2005, 10:18 AM
Wait until the VW Microbus comes out. All of a sudden, minivans will be cool again. Then what is Ford going to do?

01-25-2005, 11:21 AM
I'm not so sure. Minivans are purchased mainlyfor convenience and reliability. Cool factor comes in later. While the microbus' styling might attract a lot of people at first, It better compete head to head with the market leaders in practicality and price, if it expects to be anything more than a novelty.

01-25-2005, 01:25 PM
Bad news on the VW Microbus, it was cancelled by the board about a year ago. VW will bring a product to market, but it won't be anything like the Microbus concept from '02 (I think).

01-25-2005, 01:26 PM
Crossovers and MPV's will replace the traditional minivans. Market is changing. Image is becoming more important.

01-25-2005, 05:32 PM
I think Ford just hasnt paid any attention to it or given any money to it. They brought it upon themselves. I mean this "all new" Freestar? Is that the BEST costume they can do? It was like the same as Windstar. We had a 98 Windstar, it was okay in techincal reliability, but the interior was uncomfortable and fell apart. and it made odd noises, gave harsh ride, and was just generally unpleasant.

01-25-2005, 08:22 PM
Even if VW did bring the micro bus to the market, their reputation as of late is very negative.<p>As one of those who has been burned by their lousy customer service and poor build quality, They have lost my trust and as such, I wouldn't touch anything they build with a 10 ft pole.<p>As an aside, Minivan never have and never will be cool <IMG NAME="icon" SRC="http://www.germancarfans.com/images/forums/werd.gif" BORDER="0"> <p>I think that the Fairlane concept needs some adjustments but I'd rather have that over a minivan any day.

01-25-2005, 09:40 PM
Of course Ford messed up on Freestar, but even then people are steering away from vans.

01-26-2005, 07:28 AM
It's not really accurate to say that people are steering away from minivans, the market has matured in the last few years and is a steady revenue source. Look at the attention Toyota and Honda have given their products, which is a clear indicator of the profit potential they see. Considering the fact that the top of the line products are approaching $40,000, there's good profit in this segment if the product is right. <p>I think the Fairlane has great potential, if Ford gets the size (big like the Honda and Toyota) and details correct.

01-26-2005, 10:29 AM
O contraire, Shomare. Remember in the mid 80's when the minivan craze burst onto the scene? With the right product, this can very well happen again. Who would have thought stations wagons would be cool in the US again?

01-26-2005, 11:09 AM
I guess that now it will be the "people mover" revolution re inventing the minivan concept....

Naga Royal Guard
01-26-2005, 11:16 PM
that thing looks nothing more than a modernized Plymouth Voyogor

01-27-2005, 09:46 AM
Mazda is going to make a new MPV anyways, right? I suppose Ford can always rush a rebadge of that if this strategy flops (I doubt it will tho')...

01-27-2005, 07:22 PM
<TABLE WIDTH="90%" CELLSPACING=0 CELLPADDING=0 ALIGN=CENTER><TR><TD><i>Quote, originally posted by <b>stewacide</b> &raquo;</i></TD></TR><TR><TD CLASS="quote">Mazda is going to make a new MPV anyways, right? I suppose Ford can always rush a rebadge of that if this strategy flops (I doubt it will tho')...</TD></TR></TABLE><p>Won't be a rush...<p>It is to be co developed.<p>Also watch for Mazda's crossover concept to be co developed. Remember that Ford and Mazda are partners and they are working very well together ie the Fusion!<p> <IMG NAME="icon" SRC="http://www.germancarfans.com/images/forums/driver.gif" BORDER="0">

01-28-2005, 06:46 AM
The Fairlane would ONLY work if they dumped the Escape, Freestyle, and Freestar. The Fairlane overlaps too much to be put into production, but stranger things have happened.