Ford to Cut Production of Excursion SUV by 25%

Published May 21st, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Ford Motor Co. will cut production of the Excursion, the largest sport utility vehicle in the world, by 25 percent because the automaker overestimated demand for it, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday. 

The Excursion has been a target of environmental and safety critics. 

According to Bloomberg, Ford will cut the annual production rate for the Excursion, made at a Louisville, Ky., plant, to about 52,000 from 69,000 as of August. It added that the plant will boost output of F-Series Super Duty pickups 9.4 percent to 409,000 a year, so according to Bloomberg, analysts don't expect the move to hurt profit at the second-largest automaker.  

Company Chairman William Clay Ford, founder Henry Ford’s great grandson, acknowledged in a corporate citizenship report last week that sport utilities and pickup trucks aren't as clean or fuel efficient as cars. 

Still, Bloomberg reported analysts as saying the Excursion cut probably was prompted by competition from General Motors Corp.'s recently redesigned Chevrolet Suburban and its Yukon XL rather than environmental concerns.  

"It is more of an Excursion problem than a big SUV problem," said David Healy, an analyst at Burnham Securities.  

By the categories of Autodata Corp., an automotive information provider, seven large sport-utility vehicles are sold in the US, Ford's Excursion and Explorer, and GM's Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, Yukon XL and Hummer.  

At 5.8 meters long and three and a half tons, the Excursion has been a target of environmentalists and others who contend US-made vehicles have gotten too large and guzzle too much gasoline. According to Bloomberg, some environmentalists have dubbed it the "Ford Valdez," a reference to the Exxon Valdez oil tanker that damaged the Alaskan coastline when it leaked about 11 million gallons of oil in 1989.  

The Ford sport utility gets about 5 kilometers per one liter of gasoline, the same as GM's Suburban and Yukon XL, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.  

In February 1999, months before the Excursion reached dealers, it was branded "a setback for Ford's credibility in wanting to help solve global climate change" by Gawain Kripke, director of economic programs for Friends of the Earth.  

Moreover, Brian O'Neill, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying "When you put 8,000-pound [3600-kg] vehicles on the road with 2,000-pound [900-kg] vehicles, you are exacerbating the potential damage when the larger one collides with the smaller one."  

US sales of the Excursion, which debuted late last year, fell to 3,774 last month after exceeding 4,000 in February and March, reported Bloomberg. Sales of the Chevrolet Suburban rose 17 percent this year through April to 45,298 from a year earlier, and Yukon XL sales increased 47 percent to 19,231.  

According to Bloomberg, Ford planed to attract Suburban buyers to the Excursion, but the redesigned GM vehicle was more successful than they probably expected. The redesigned Suburban, which is 25 centimeters shorter than the Excursion, got an improved engine, more headroom and legroom, side air bags and rear-seat air conditioners.  

Ford had a 111-day supply of Excursions on dealer lots at the end of April, according to Autodata. GM had a 39-day supply of Suburbans and a 31-day inventory of Yukon XLs. Automakers typically aim for a 60-to-65-day inventory.  

"It looks like US demand for the Excursion will be about 50,000 units this year, but we were building them at a rate that could produce about 69,000," said Ford spokesman George Pipas.  

The Excursion and the F-Series Super Duty pickup share the same chassis, engines and some body panels – Albawaba.com. 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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