Ford executive says baby offroader in product pipeline

FILE PHOTO - A Ford logo is pictured at a car dealership in Monterrey, Mexico, November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril/File Photo

(Reuters) - Ford Motor Co F.N plans to introduce a small utility vehicle based on its compact Focus sedan, with more rugged offroad styling cues than the Escape, a top executive said on Wednesday.

The new model, which will share parts with the Focus and Escape, will feature “offroad positioning and imagery” and will carry a premium price, according to Hau Thai-Tang, executive vice president of product development and purchasing. Thai-Tang was speaking at an investor conference in New York

The vehicle, as yet unnamed, is an all-new model with a design intended to recall Ford’s classic mid-1960s Bronco offroader, according to a source familiar with the company’s plans. The new compact could debut in 2019 as a 2020 model, said the source.

Thai-Tang cited the vehicle as an example of how the U.S. automaker is changing its product development process to use more flexible vehicle architectures, increase parts commonality and speed new products to market more quickly.

Ford unveiled a boxy Bronco concept at the 2004 Detroit auto show that never went into production. The U.S. automaker said last year it plans to launch a midsize Bronco, based on the upcoming Ford Ranger midsize pickup, for model year 2020.

Unlike the 2020 Bronco, which will use a trucklike body-on-frame architecture, the “baby Bronco” will be more carlike since it will share its underpinnings with the Focus and Escape.

Ford has said it plans to phase out the Focus sedan and hatchback in North America because of declining demand for conventional passenger cars.

But it expects to introduce a wagon-like variant of the redesigned compact, called Focus Active, with modest crossover-like styling cues reminiscent of the Subaru Outback, the source said, adding that the Focus Active will share common parts with the small offroader.

Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Matthew Lewis