DETROIT — America is showing an insatiable appetite for trucks and SUVs, and Ford plans to feed it.
CEO Jim Hackett and his top executives rolled out last week a strategy to ramp up truck and SUV production with a goal of 86 percent of the company’s volume in North America by 2020 — up from 70 percent.
“We’re speeding up product development,” he said. “We want to give you confidence.”
Put simply: Ford wants to play where it can win.
Ford confirmed showrooms will sell eight SUVs within the next two years, up from six today. Designers have reworked the Escape, Explorer and Bronco, and announced plans for a new, not-yet-named, off-road small utility vehicle. A highlight includes a Mustang-inspired all-electric utility vehicle. Everything will be available with hybrid engines.
The Dearborn-based company known for its massive F-Series pickup trucks and freshly popular high-end Lincoln Navigator is pushing even harder into the large truck segment while at the same time outlining plans to unveil midsize SUVs.
“Our F-Series was a $41 billion business last year, bigger than Coke or Nike,” said Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president and president of global operations. “Our F-Series sales are at near record levels.”
He noted that the vehicle outsold the Chevy Silverado by more than 300,000 trucks.
The team joked to a group of invited reporters that Ford products would make gains in electrification and achieve recognition without having to launch anything into space, a clear shot at Tesla.
Currently, Ford is No. 2 in hybrid vehicle production, just behind Toyota, with a desire to take a lead by 2021.
“We’re moving past hybrids as a science project” to a mainstay of the lineup, Farley said.
Consumer studies show that buyers want bigger “silhouettes” when there’s no concern about fuel cost, Hackett noted. So the company plans to fulfill demand while at the same time building more efficient products.
Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford North America, said the plan over the next two years shouldn’t shock anyone.
“We’ve been steadily moving in that direction for a while,” he said.
The Ford team teased plans to possibly go after the lucrative Jeep market when Farley outlined a plan to pursue off-road capabilities as well as integrated daily use.
The Great Recession threw Ford out of cadence with new products, as other companies wrestled with bankruptcy while Ford did not, Farley said.
Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis at AutoPacific, Inc., said, “It’s nice to know Ford finally has some product to talk about. The argument can be made that Ford needed new SUVs three years ago.
“The Explorer hasn’t been able to repeat the success they found back in 2000, but bringing back some of the original formula should help boost sales.”