DEABRORN, MI – Ford North American Fleet, Lease & Remarketing Operations said there will be sufficient fleet production volume of the Five Hundred and the upcoming 2006 Fusion to meet the requirements of commercial and government fleet customers. "We have worked closely with our Ford Division colleagues to ensure our commercial and government fleet customer requirements are included in the production program and have received total commitment to this. We are confident we will have the production volume needed to meet the needs of our customers," said Gerry Koss, North America fleet marketing manager for Ford North American Fleet, Lease & Remarketing Operations. What prompted the clarification was a query by Automotive Fleet to an article in Automotive News reporting that Ford Division will start selling in limited numbers the 2005 Five Hundred sedan and Freestyle sport wagon to daily rental fleets this spring, six months after launch. Although the Five Hundred and Freestyle will be sold to major rental companies such as Hertz, Budget, and Enterprise beginning in March or April, Ford in a follow-up correspondence with Automotive Fleet said it will not affect fleet availability of the two models for commercial and government fleet customers. In the Automotive News article, Ford said it will adopt the same approach with daily rental sales for the 2006 Fusion sedan, which goes on sale this fall. There will be no daily rental sales of the Fusion until at least six months after the launch. Initial daily rental sales will be limited to 7 percent. "To maximize build quality, we have established a production ramp-up plan that builds volume slowly for the first few production months. We expect this plan to be put into place for Fusion also. The Fusion is an all-new vehicle being built in an all-new assembly plant. Our commitment is to deliver the highest quality vehicle from the start. Building volume slowly ensures this takes place," said Koss. "However, our fleet volumes are projected for the full year, thus while production may be limited at the beginning, we will be able to meet our full year volume requirements." The Taurus remains in Ford's product plan for the 2006-model year, but it will become "virtually all fleet" once the Fusion arrives, Ford Division President Steve Lyons said in the Automotive News article. He expects the Taurus to move from about 65 percent fleet to nearly 100 percent fleet. It still will be available for retail sales. "Although the retail market will migrate to a greater volume of Five Hundred and Fusion, the continuation of Taurus at retail is a key part of the fleet strategy," said Koss. "This will ensure availability of Taurus for out-of-stock purchases from the dealer and through the Taurus Rapid Order Fulfillment Program which will continue for the 2006-model year." Koss added: "In discussions with key fleet accounts they have stated that there is no hesitancy on purchasing Taurus for the 2006-model year and migrating to Fusion in the 2007-model year. A few of our key fleet accounts have stated that they will probably place a mix of Taurus and Fusion in 2006. Thus, based on this we feel confident in our ability to meet their needs."

Originally posted on Fleet Financials