DETROIT – In an ongoing effort to establish itself as an automotive technology leader, Ford Motor Co. will begin offering an automated parallel-parking feature across most of its lineup over the next five to six years.

“It’s an interesting technology we’re well on the way to developing and launching,” Derrick Kuzak, group vice president-global product development, tells Ward’s at the North American International Auto Show here.

“You’ve seen it offered by some premium manufacturers, and we will be propagating that pretty quickly across a majority of our vehicles.”

Kuzak declines to reveal details of the parking system but does say it will be sensor-based, as camera technology is too costly for volume products.

Toyota Motor Corp.’s “Electronic Park Assist” system, which its Lexus Div. offers on LS series sedans, employs a camera and sensors. Kuzak doesn’t say whether Ford plans to brand its self-parking system.

The integration of the parallel-parking system will be made easier due to Ford’s upcoming rollout of electric-power steering, a spokesman says, noting 80% to 90% of Ford vehicles will have electric steering within the next four years.

Ford’s new push to bring high technology to the masses won’t stretch its engineering corps due to CEO Alan Mulally’s “One-Ford” strategy, meant to streamline the auto maker’s global operations.

“One of the opportunities we have with One-Ford is the ability to (eliminate) duplication and assign one team the responsibility to continue to develop their expertise and stay at the leading edge of technology,” Kuzak says.

Meanwhile, Kuzak and Barb Samardzich, vice president-powertrain product development, say they are prepared for the upcoming debuts of the ’08 Dodge Challenger and ’09 Chevrolet Camaro, both competitors of Ford’s iconic Mustang pony car.

While both new cars are reported to be launching with more horsepower than the current Mustang, Samardzich is not intimidated.

“It won’t be the first time that Mustang and Camaro have been in the marketplace together,” she says. “So I think we have a very good handle on what it takes to maintain our great tradition in that market segment.”

More horsepower for the Mustang is not out of the question, with Kuzak hinting the pony car may receive a version of Ford’s new EcoBoost engine technology that combines turbocharging with direct injection to provide better fuel economy without sacrificing performance.

“(Mustang) is an icon for us, and you can be sure we will protect that icon,” he says. “In terms of EcoBoost, think about the torque curves (it offers) and whether it will have an opportunity in (the) Mustang, and you can come to your own conclusions.”

Ford officials also suggest a new Mustang may be announced later this year.