The production version of the upcoming Ford Fairlane will look nearly identical to the concept shown at the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, says J Mays, Ford Motor Co. chief creative officer and group vice president-design.

“It looks almost exactly the same” Mays tells Ward’s. “There are people within the company that can’t see the difference – and that’s not a criticism of people in the company, it’s a comment on how closely it resembles the concept.”

The cross/utility vehicle, codenamed D471, will be built at Ford’s Oakville, Ont., Canada, plant alongside a Lincoln derivative codenamed D472. The two CUVs will debut in 2008.

Ford has said the upcoming CUV will not be named the Fairlane, but it has yet to announce a new moniker.

The Fairlane replaces the Freestar, which will end its production run at Oakville next year and leave Ford without a minivan in its lineup. The Mercury Monterey minivan was discontinued in August.

The Fairlane-inspired CUV will be “a very elegant, upscale people mover,” Mays promises.

“The Fairlane captures the whole aura of East Coast, old money romanticism, and that’s what resonated with people,” Mays says. “Journalists, customers and analysts realized how hard it is to view a 7-seat vehicle with emotion, but it’s just part of a growing range of emotional vehicles we have going forward.”

bpope@wardsauto.com