Ford, Once a Leader in the S.U.V. Race, Aims to Catch Up

Earlier this decade, as the economy and auto sales rebounded, Ford executives were quick to note consumers’ waning preference for midsize cars and growing attraction to S.U.V.s and lighter, more fuel-efficient versions called crossovers. But Ford was slow to introduce new variations and redesign existing models, while General Motors and Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep brand zoomed ahead.

The push toward S.U.V.s signals a shift in emphasis for Ford. Before Mr. Hackett’s arrival last May, the company had focused much of its long-term strategy on self-driving cars, and had vowed to have a car with no steering wheel in mass-production by 2021.

Ford’s Explorer ST, a high-performance version showcased by the automaker on Thursday. Credit Ford Motor Company

Ford is pressing on with self-driving vehicles, but executives barely mentioned them as part of the new vehicle strategy they presented on Thursday.

Along with its S.U.V. plan, Mr. Hackett said, Ford is also working to slash costs by streamlining how it develops vehicles and reducing the number of sets of basic components — known as architectures — that it uses to create different models. “This is not change for change’s sake,” he said. “This is to redesign the business.”

In the future, the company expects to use just five architectures to make almost all of the vehicles it produces around the world. Other automakers, including Volkswagen and Toyota Motor, have already made similar moves.

Ford has said it expected its measures to reduce costs by $4 billion over the next five years.

Brian Johnson, a financial analyst at Barclays Capital, said it might take Ford two years to feel a significant impact from these efforts. “We continue to believe that arguably there won’t be much to get excited about with the Ford story until 2019 or perhaps 2020,” Mr. Johnson said.

The new S.U.V.s planned by Ford include a version of the Bronco, the compact S.U.V. the company phased out 20 years ago; an all-electric, four-door model designed to compete with Tesla’s Model X; and redesigned versions of existing models, the Escape and Explorer. The company’s Lincoln brand plans to introduce two new S.U.V.s at the New York International Auto Show later this month.

There are also several all-new S.U.V.s in the pipeline, including a variety of off-road models and hybrids, Mr. Farley said.

“Every time we launch a utility in North America, our intention is to have a hybrid,” Mr. Farley said. “We are going to make hybrids mainstream.”

Hybrids like the Toyota Prius have appealed primarily to car buyers seeking better gas mileage. Mr. Farley said Ford planned to use electric power to boost the torque and towing power of the S.U.V.s it is developing.

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