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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 21:20 GMT 22:20 UK
Ford expected to axe mammoth SUV
Ford Excursion sports-utility vehicle
Ford's 19-foot-long Excursion gets 10 miles to a gallon

One of grandest examples of American excess is rumoured to be on the chopping block, a victim of a slower economy.

The Ford Excursion, the world's largest regular-production sports-utility vehicle (SUV), will end its model run in 2004, according to reports.

Lincoln Blackwood luxury pick-up truck
Ford has discontinued its Lincoln Blackwood model
When first introduced in 1999 as a 2000 model, the hulking vehicle was viewed by many as the wrong vehicle at the wrong time.

Environmentalists held it up as a prime example of cockeyed thinking by the American car industry.

Averaging only 10 miles per gallon (MPG), the 19-foot Excursion is capable of carrying nine people, is too long to fit in conventional US garages and requires two parking spaces on city streets.

Ford Motor refused to confirm whether the Excursion was destined for the graveyard.

"I am not able to talk about the future like that," Sarah Tatchio, a spokeswoman for Ford, told the New York Times newspaper.

"The Excursion is part of our line-up for '03, and that's all I can say."

Gas guzzler

Citing sources familiar with Ford's product plans, the Times said the Excursion is a victim of waning interest among consumers.

No longer keen about conspicuous consumption, Americans are cutting back as the US economy struggles to regain its footing and the future of petrol prices remains in question.

But the giant people mover could also be viewed as an embarrassment to Ford's chief executive, William Clay Ford, who took over the reins of the struggling automaker last year.

Mr Ford is the great-grandson of company-founder Henry Ford.

As an avowed environmentalist with ties to environmental groups, the production of the gas-guzzling, exhaust-spewing Excursion appeared to contradict the younger Mr Ford's values.

Product cuts

Nevertheless, Ford insiders told the Times Mr Ford stood solidly behind the vehicle, citing its potential for huge profits.

They said the Excursion's potential demise has more to do with a sluggish economy that has dropped production figures to less than half of what Ford had hoped.

So far this year, Ford has sold about 15,000 Excursions, putting the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker on pace to sell about 30,000 Excursions this year - far fewer than the 40,000 needed to break even.

In an effort to cut costs and return to profitability, Ford has been intensively reviewing its business to excise loss-making enterprises.

Despite its short three-year run, the Excursion, if it is discontinued, will have long outlasted the Lincoln Blackwood, a luxury pickup based on the Lincoln Navigator SUV.

Ford recently said the Blackwood would be discontinued after a mere nine months on the market.


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