Ford Motor Co.'s decision to keep the Escort sedan in its lineup (see Ward's Automotive Reports — April 5, '99, p.5) apparently will be short-lived — less than two years — to make way for production of a new Focus-based vehicle at the Hermosillo, Mexico, plant, Ford sources say.

The new vehicle, possibly a high-package hybrid wagon, could borrow styling cues from the Mercury “my” concept shown at the Detroit auto show and possibly be sold under the Mercury brand. However, no branding decision for the future vehicle has been made and no funding for the project has been approved.

Ford's decision to move Escort sedan production from Wayne, MI, to Hermosillo also will allow the automaker to put distance between the Focus and Escort. Ford officials say the Focus is not a replacement for the Escort.

Ford made similar claims with the Contour when it dropped the Tempo, but not having the latter vehicle in the lineup naturally led consumers to believe otherwise. This hurt sales of the Contour, despite being a far more advanced vehicle, because consumers expected to pay Tempo money for the more-advanced Contour.

Ford apparently doesn't want to make the same mistake with the Focus, and keeping Escort in the lineup, both the sedan and the ZX2 will be built in Hermosillo, should give consumers more time to get cozy with Focus.

Moving Escort sedan output to Hermosillo will keep that plant running at reasonable levels until the new Focus-based model comes along.