Auto Week reports that Ford plans to offer a more fuel-efficient version of its full-size SUV, the Expedition, that could be powered by either a new European V-8 diesel engine or a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain.
Ford is angling to have a higher-mileage, full-size SUV that will compete with the hybrid full-size SUVs arriving from GM next year. Such a vehicle could be ready for production around 2010.
GM’s hybrid SUVs are expected to deliver a 25% gain in fuel economy over current models, pushing fuel economy into the mid-20s mpg.
“We have hybrids and diesels under development,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president of product development for the Americas.
Kuzak declined to give a time frame for the effort or confirm plans for a new, fuel-efficient Expedition.
The diesel appears to be a bigger version of the new 3.6-liter engine offered in Land Rovers sold in Europe. The diesel engine would be relatively quick and inexpensive for Ford to install compared to the hybrid. Ford has also described a different type of hybrid powertrain for a Land Rover concept, the e-Terrain. (Earlier post.)
Year-to-date US sales of the Expedition have dropped 24.1% through May compared with the same period in 2005. Sales in May 2006 dropped 33% from May 2005.
Kuzak said Ford is looking at all options. “Right now we are looking at a variety of alternatives in terms of a (transmission) for our hybrids, that’s in-house and working with external suppliers.”
Kuzak would not say when either powertrain would be ready for production in the Expedition. But he acknowledged Ford needs such a vehicle.
“Right now as we look at what is required for competitiveness in fuel economy, for customers’ unmet needs for fuel economy and for environmental considerations, we need to look at a variety of technologies—hybrids, diesel engines, better gasoline engines, better electrical systems to minimize parasitic losses.
“All of those technologies need to be pursued, developed and understood for our cars and trucks.”