Anxious to soothe investor worries that itsnear-term product pipeline is dry, Ford Motor Co. is confirmed Feb. 6 that it plans to build a midsize crossover sport utility vehicle at a Chicago factory that currently builds low-profit Taurus sedans, according to a Wall Street Journal
story by Norihiko Shirouzu.The announcement comes in the wake of a bad day for Ford shares on Wall Street; at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading Feb. 5, the company's stock was down 59 cents at $14, a 52-week low.The vehicle, which Ford is calling the "CrossTrainer," is designed to have a smooth car-like ride and a rugged sport-utility body.But Ford's answer to several such car-based crossover vehicles already for sale by rivals still won't be available for two years.The three-row, seven-seat vehicle will target rivals such as Honda's recently launched Pilot in the developing crossover sector of the SUV market."The CrossTrainer combines the best attributes of a sedan and sport utility providing room for up to seven passengers and their cargo,” Ford Motor president and chief operating officer Nick Scheele said. “The Chicago Assembly Plant has a reputation as one of our highest quality, most efficient plants and when we introduce the new CrossTrainer, it also will become a benchmark in our new flexible manufacturing system.” The aging Taurus, still one of the best-selling cars in America thanks to high-discount fleet and rental sales, will continue to be produced in Atlanta. According to Ford, the CrossTrainer is designed to meet the needs of an emerging group of car customers who want the image and advantages of a sport utility, but don’t necessarily need the off-road and heavy-duty towing capabilities associated with sport utility vehicles though it will be available with front and all-wheel drive. Like the new Range Rover in Ford's Premier Automotive Group stable, and many new small SUV models like the Toyota RAV4 or Honda CRV, the CrossTrainer will have car-based body construction.It will will also have a V6 engine and new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) claimed to provide exceptionally smooth operation and up to a 10 percent fuel economy improvement over a traditional powertrain.The CrossTrainer CVT is the first North American application of a new, technologically advanced transmission developed and produced under Ford’s joint venture with ZF. When the Chicago plant is reconfigured for the CrossTrainer, it will feature the first nearby automotive supplier manufacturing park in North America and a flexible body shop that allows one set of tooling to build multiple vehicle configurations to better match vehicle output with customer demand, according to Ford. Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant first began producing cars in 1924. The plant covers more than 2.7 million square feet and employs nearly 2,500.