DEARBORN, Mich -- Ford Motor Co. unveiled Wednesday its first substantially redesigned full-sized Mercury in a dozen years, confirming that the V8-powered sedan to go on sale March 21 as a 1992 model will be classified as an import to ease fuel economy pressures.
The 1992-model Mercury Grand Marquis is part of a $1 billion program by Ford to completely redesign its large Ford and Mercury sedans for 1992. The five-year project, code-named EN53, is aimed at replacing Ford's LTD/Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis sedans which last underwent major design changes for 1979.
Ford will formally preview its new Crown Victoria next month.
The 1992 Grand Marquis, approximately the same size as the old version but covered with a new, aerodynamically styled body, enters production Jan. 14 at Ford's St. Thomas, Ontario, plant where the current version is made.
The 1992 Grand Marquis is powered by Ford's new 4.6 liter V8 engine now found in its Lincoln Town Car. Company engineers said buyers should get between 1 and 2 mpg better fuel economy than the current Grand Marquis, although the EPA estimates may not officially change because those ratings are done on a family of cars with the same engine, not particular models.
The current Grand Marquis is now EPA-rated at 17 city/24 mpg.
But the No. 2 automaker still lowered the number of North American- made parts used in the 1992 Grand Marquis to 73 percent, so it can be counted as an import car.
Under federal law, a car must have a domestic parts content of at least 75 percent to be classified as a domestic model. The current Grand Marquis has a domestic parts content of between 85 and 90 percent.
By lowering the content,however, Ford can average the Grand Marquis' relatively low fuel mileage ratings among its more fuel-stingy imports like its Korean-made Festiva and Australian-made Capri.
This in turn eases pressure on Ford to meet federally mandated corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards among its North American-made cars. The standards for the domestic and import fleets are each now set at 27.5 mpg.
'It's a goofy law,' said Ross H. Roberts, general manager of Ford's Lincoln-Mercury division. 'It makes absolutely no sense... we now have to have more imported parts than before.'
Several components and subassemblies of the new Grand Marquis and Crown Victoria will be built in Mexico, including instrument panels, door trim and brakes. The shock absorbers will come from Japan, while weatherstripping and other suspension parts will be sourced in Europe.
Company officials estimate that the increased use of foreign parts means the loss of about 350 American jobs. But the alternative may have been to sharply curtail production of a car still popular with older, traditional buyers, Ford said.
Prices on the new Grand Marquis, which will have air conditioning, four-wheel-disc brakes and a driver-side air bag as standard equipment, have not been finalized.
But company exectives said the new model will probably not be priced substantially above the current model that starts at $18,741 for the GS version and $19,241 for the LS version.
Ford expects to sell about 110,000 Grand Marquis a year, up slightly from 104,000 sales this year for the current model.
Fifty to 75 percent of those sales expected to come from former Grand Marquis buyers, company planners said. The remainder are expected to come from those who move up from Ford's mid-sized cars, like the Taurus or Sable.
Ford is also aiming the Grand Marquis at those considering General Motors Corp. products, like the Buick LeSabre and Park Avenue, Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight and Ninety-Eight, Chevrolet Caprice and Pontiac Bonneville.