Mazda to get Mazda6-derived sport vehicle, Ford says
GENEVA - Mazda dealers will get a sport wagon or all-activity vehicle derived from the Mazda6.
Ford Motor Co. officials have said the mid-sized sedan would be the basis for the Lincoln Aviator replacement and a new Ford sport wagon. But they had not said previously that Mazda also would get a version.
The next-generation Aviator as well as a Ford version will arrive in fall 2006 as a 2007 model.
The vehicle would fit nicely in Mazda's product strategy, John Parker, executive vice president of Mazda Motor Corp., said at the Geneva auto show.
"Mazda would like to extend the range of its products," Parker said. "We are in 45 to 50 percent of the U.S. market, and we want to be in two-thirds of it."
He said the Mazda variant might be more of an "all-activity-vehicle" than a sport wagon or SUV. That would make it more consistent with the Japanese company's sporty brand theme.
Parker says the vehicle will join the Tribute sport wagon and MPV minivan in the lineup, not replace either one. It would probably be larger than the Tribute - about the size of a Lexus RX 330, he said.
"There's room for two of those kinds of vehicles in the Mazda lineup," Parker said. "All-activity vehicles are a growing trend. We have to look at our market opportunities."
Lincoln had hoped to sell up to 35,000 Aviators annually, but sales got off to a slow start. Demand increased when incentives were added last year, but Lincoln sold just 29,517 units in 2003, its first full year on the market. The current truck-based Aviator is built in Ford's St. Louis plant alongside the Explorer. Plans for assembling the car-based successor and the Ford version have shifted between the Atlanta plant - which builds the aging Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable sedans - and the Oakville, Ontario, plant, which builds the Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans.
Ford's version of the Aviator likely would be positioned against the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot, said a company source. He said Toyota has successfully sold both the Highlander and 4Runner SUVs without much cannibalization, he said, and Ford should be able to do the same with its new sport wagon and the Explorer.