This story has been updated with new information.
Ford Motor Co. may pull the plug on two midsize SUV models, including the familiar Edge crossover, as well as the more upscale Lincoln Nautilus.
Ford made it clear it was betting big on SUVs and crossovers last year when it announced plans to abandon all passenger car models but the venerable Mustang coupe. If anything, the automaker seemed ready to expand its utility vehicle line-up with the addition of the Bronco and Bronco Sport models – but now, Ford may be ready to abandon both Edge and Nautilus, hoping it can make up for potential lost volume with the rest of its broad SUV mix.
Should Ford follow through and cancel the two crossovers, that “puts the Oakville (Ontario) plant at the risk of closing,” said Sam Fiorani, founder of Auto Forecast Solutions, which first reported the possible demise of the two Ford CUVs.
If Oakville were to close, in turn, it would leave Ford without a single assembly plant in Canada for the first time in roughly a century, though it also maintains two engine plants north of the border. Canada has already faced the closure of the big General Motors plant in the Toronto suburbs, so the loss of Oakville would be a major blow. And it’s one that Unifor, the union representing Canadian auto workers, is expected to put high on its list to fight as it sets out to negotiate a new contract with Ford in the coming months.
One possible goal for Unifor would be lining up alternative products for Oakville, though it is unclear what models Ford might want to locate in Canada, especially considering the high cost of production there.
“Edge and the five-passenger midsize SUV segment remain a critical part of Ford’s winning portfolio,” a Ford spokesman told TheDetroitBureau.com in an email.
“We have no plans to exit the segment, particularly as Edge sales were up 3% to nearly 140,000 Edges in the U.S. last year. Since its launch in 2006, we have sold more than 1.6 million Edges in America. Customers are loving the all-new Edge ST, with retail sales up 41% in 2019. We also are building on that success with launch of the Edge ST-Line, which is now available for order, plus an upgraded features for the 2021 Edge.”
However, a number of sources reached by TheDetroitBureau.com indicated that the possibility of eliminating the crossovers is highly likely.
“They may be concerned that the space (the two compete in) is getting too crowded,” said Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst with IHS Automotive.
Since the original version of the Edge was launched during the 2007 model year, more than a dozen competitors have entered the segment. Meanwhile, Ford has shifted direction for its other midsize model, the Explorer. Originally based on a truck-like platform, Explorer now uses a car-like architecture, as does the Edge. The biggest difference is that Explorer is a three-row package, Edge offering just two rows. The addition of a five-seat Explorer could resolve that problem.
It’s not just the fact that Edge has to go up against offerings from brands like Chevrolet, Toyota, Hyundai and Volkswagen, said Brinley. Ford itself now has a vast array of utility vehicles, and is about to add still more. The list currently starts with the entry-level EcoSport and moves up through the Escape, Edge, Explorer and Expedition. The automaker plans to reveal the eagerly anticipated Bronco next month, with the smaller Bronco Sport to follow. Lincoln, likewise, has been growing its own utility vehicle portfolio.
A move by Ford to rationalize its product portfolio would be in line with its strategy to share more parts and components across the line-up in a bid to reduce costs, several analysts said.
The question is whether Ford can massage its existing portfolio in ways that would encourage current Edge customers to shift to another vehicle within the line-up, rather than leave for another brand. That has proven more difficult than expected since it announced plans to drop sedan models like the Focus and Fusion. The goal had been to get buyers to migrate to models like the Ford Escape and Edge, but many have defected to competitors like Toyota and Hyundai.
Edge has remained a reasonably popular model within the Ford line-up, U.S. demand rising about 4% in 2019 while suffering a relatively minor 4.3% dip during the first quarter of this year. As the coronavirus pandemic began to hit, Ford’s overall sales fell 12.5% during the January-March period, SUV volume off 11%.
As for timing, Auto Forecast Solutions says the Lincoln Nautilus should be gone early in 2023. A replacement for the Ford Edge, internally known as the CDX777 program, was due about the same time. Fiorani said it is possible “production could be extended,” at least for a short time after that.
While the Edge may go away in North America, AFS expects development of the next Chinese version, codenamed CDX706, will move ahead.