In 1994, Ford Motor Co. became more of a truck company than a car company. Next year trucks based on its F-Series platform may well reach 1 million sales for the first time ever, Edward E. Hagenlocker, president of Ford Automotive Operations, tells WAW.

Clearly buoyed by the warm reception given the all-new F-Series full-size pickups introduced for 1996, plus early bullish reports from dealers for the F-based all-new Expedition full-size sport/utility vehicle (SUV) that reaches showrooms this fall, Mr. Hagenlocker says Ford "could push" the record-breaking million-mark next year.

F-Series pickup sales already are running at an annualized rate of 800,000, he says, adding that Expedition sales -- which he officially forecasts at 150,000 in 1997 -- could climb to the 200,000 range. Right now, however, Ford's North American F-platform capacity stands at 933,000. "We'll have to do some shifting and things like that, but it's do-able," he says.

The Expedition is built alongside full-size pickups at the Michigan Truck plant in Wayne, MI, which switched to 3-crew shifting in 1995 to increase capacity.

Mr. Hagenlocker says the plant can build 200,000 Expeditions per year if needed.

Other variations of the F-trucks are produced in Kansas City, MO; Louisville, KY; Norfolk, VA; Oakville, Ont.; and Cuautitlan , Mexico . Three crew shifting is "clearly one way" Ford could go to expand F-Series output, he says, adding that "we have some other things we could do within some existing plants. "We'll look at those and make that decision in another month or so."

Contrary to some prominent forecasts, Mr. Hagenlocker remains convinced light trucks will account for 50% of all U.S. light-vehicle sales by 2000 compared with 42.7% so far this model year. Ford sold more trucks than cars starting in 1994, and this year will set another benchmark: With Lincoln-Mercury included, the company will sell more than 2 million trucks, he predicts.

"If I go back to the auto shows of five or six years ago, Ford Div. was working on selling an equal number of cars and trucks," Mr. Hagenlocker says. "We now have moved to the point where we're definitely going to sell 40% more trucks than we are cars.

Now, you add in Lincoln-Mercury and we crossed over to selling more trucks than cars in North America two years ago."

Mr. Hagenlocker also says there appears to be enough market support for both compact and full-size SUVs. "In model year '96, compact SUV sales went up by 82,000 units and full-size went up by more than 8,000 units," he says. "So, they are not feeding off each other. And that's without the Expedition being out there."