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Auto blogWed, 29 May 2013 15:44:00 EST
Ford looks to be working on a new SUV version of its global Ranger pickup truck. An early prototype of a seven-passenger SUV based on the Ranger has been spotted testing in Australia, and word has it buyers in the region could expect to see the model in showrooms as soon as 2014, where it could sail under the Endeavour or Everest badges. Ford Australia currently sells the Territory SUV, so there's some chance that this model could be a successor to that throne, as well.
Whatever it's called, the long-roof Ranger will feature a shorter wheelbase and more ground clearance than its pickup twin, giving the machine a bit more off-road functionality. (And here we thought we couldn't want the global Ranger any more than we already do.) While this particular vehicle sports a Territory back half grafted onto a Ranger front end, odds are a public reveal of the finished product could occur as soon as the second half of 2014, making it a 2015 model. Head over to Carsguide.com.au for a closer look.
While most of us believe that small, fuel efficient cars are the key to global expansion for US automakers, Jim Farley, Ford's vice president of Global Marketing, thinks otherwise. Last week, we attended an exclusive sneak preview of the Ford Edge Concept in advance of the Los Angeles Auto Show, and Farley told us that it's actually utility vehicles that will help the Blue Oval gain market share overseas. "There is no other segment in our industry that is growing like utilities," he said. "We expect over the next five years this full family of [utility] vehicles to really drive our growth as a company."
And Farley has the numbers to back it up, too. Ford projects overall automotive sales to grow 23 percent from 2012 to 2017, but the company's utility vehicles are expected to boom by an impressive 41 percent during that same period. Much of that growth will be in China, where Ford estimates its utility sales will explode. "The biggest opportunity for us globally for utilities is in China," Farley said. "China utility growth is expected to more than double from where it is today to 2017, which isn't that far away." Most astounding is that Ford projects its own utility sales in China will eventually increase by more than 2,000 percent when smaller crossovers, such as the EcoSport and Kuga (sold as the Escape in North America), and the Edge and Explorer, are factored in.
Ford's VP also expects utilities to lead the way in the struggling European market. "With all the difficulties of the European market, there is one segment that has actually expanded in volume over the last several years even though the market is way down, and that's utilities," Farley told us. Ford estimates that their utility sales will grow 65 percent in Europe from 2012-2017. "The utility segment is projected to grow we think about thirty percent between now and 2017 in Europe, and we think we are going to grow twice that rate as a brand," Farley continued.
Ford's board is open to CEO Alan Mulally stepping down before his planned departure in 2014, inside sources are telling Reuters. Ford's plan of succession, aside from who would be his actual successor, has been something approaching common knowledge - the 68-year-old former Boeing exec had plans to stay through 2014. This was recently confirmed by Mulally himself on Bloomberg Television and in Automotive News.
Motivation for the about-face comes from what Reuters calls a "growing confidence" in the current crop of Ford execs, led by Mark Fields. Fields, Ford's current chief operating officer, has been tipped as Mulally's ultimate successor, although he's far from the only person with eyes on Ford's top job. Normally, Ford's board saying they're open to an executive, that's done very well for the company, stepping down early would be nearly unremarkable. It's the timing of this announcement, though, that makes this a big piece of news.
Recently, Mulally has been the subject of rumors that he's interested in taking the CEO position at tech giant Microsoft. The Redmond, Washington-based company's CEO, Steve Ballmer, told the media in August that he'd be retiring in a year's time. The fires were stoked when tech website AllThingsD speculated that Mulally would take the top spot, despite denials from the man himself. Could Ford's current boss become the new top dog at Microsoft? Will Mark Fields replace him? Could recently departed Renault exec Carlos Tavares land at Ford in some capacity? Let us know what you think below in Comments.