Ford Motor Co.'s in-house purveyor of high performance, the Special Vehicle Team (SVT) is recasting itself in light of a product-development black hole that means SVT won't have anything to sell until 2006.

By second-quarter 2004, SVT officials confirm all of its three currently available products — the SVT Mustang Cobra, SVT F-150 Lightning and SVT Focus — will be out of production. The Cobra and Lightning — both on new platforms — will not reappear in the SVT portfolio until 2005 as '06 models — and the Focus is banished from the lineup entirely as SVT initiates a move upmarket.

SVT marketing and sales manager Tom Scarpello says, “We will be out of the market with all three products,” by the end of second-quarter 2004. But the 600-odd certified SVT dealers largely support the strategy, says Scarpello, despite the fact the SVT section of their showrooms will be empty for more than a year.

SVT's new upscale initiative, underscored by dropping the Focus from its lineup, comes as rumors persist that SVT is seeking to justify its existence in Ford's cost-conscious corporate climate. Scarpello and John Coletti, SVT's chief engineer, recently showed the press a slew of SVT prototypes that included a Lincoln Navigator and a V-10 toting Mustang that could be envisioned as an upscale grand-touring coupe.

“The new SVT vehicles will be more extreme and more exclusive,” confirms Coletti.