Ford Motor Co (F.N) will produce a seven-seat minivan-like vehicle built on a stretched compact car platform in North America beginning in late 2011, the automaker said on Tuesday.
The automaker introduced five- and seven-seat versions of the vehicle, the latest design of its C-Max, at the Frankfurt Motor Show on Tuesday for European markets by late 2010. It plans only to build the larger version in North America.
The larger Grand C-Max will have two sliding doors with the function of a minivan, but be more compact and fuel efficient, it said. It will compete against the Mazda5 (7261.T) and larger minivans from Chrysler Group LLC, Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and Honda Motor Co Ltd (7267.T).
The vehicle is the first to be built on what Ford describes as a global C-sized platform used for its Focus compact car and is part of its strategy to reduce costs.
Ford, the only large U.S. automaker that has not restructured under U.S. government supported bankruptcy this year, expects to return to at least break-even in 2011 in part because of its global strategy to cut costs.
The automaker posted losses of about $30 billion over the three years from 2006 through 2008, but has focused on managing cash closely and has said that it has adequate liquidity to fund its turnaround plan.
Our cash outflow is going to be reduced in the second half from the first half, Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth told reporters at the Frankfurt Motor Show on Tuesday.
Taking advantage of global production volumes is crucial to Ford's turnaround strategy.
Ford expects to sell up to 2 million vehicles per year on that global C-sized car platform, which could have up to 10 models once they are introduced over the next several years.
New Focus compacts with sedan and hatchback models are due to launch in the United States in late 2010 on that platform and will be produced at a Michigan factory. Ford has not disclosed production plans for the North American C-Max.
Ford expects continued growth in small car sales in North America. B-segment subcompact cars and C-segment compact cars have accounted for nearly 22 percent of U.S. industry sales so far in 2009, up from less than 15 percent in 2004.
(Reporting by David Bailey in Detroit and Soyoung Kim in Frankfurt, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)