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Over There? No, Over Here!

If ever there was any doubt that Ford CEO Alan Mulally is serious about his “One Ford” idea, a series of new car clinics should dispel any doubts.

If ever there was any doubt that Ford CEO Alan Mulally is serious about his “One Ford” idea, a series of new car clinics should dispel any doubts. Sources close to the program say current generation models of the S-Max, C-Max, Transit Connect, Kuga, and Galaxy are being shown to U.S. consumers in an attempt to discern whether or not they would be willing to make the move to these Euro-style vehicles. As is customary in such instances, the cars are de-badged, painted in the same color, and accompanied by generic information boards describing features, powertrain, options, etc. so respondents aren’t swayed by “externalities.”

Though the Transit Connect is scheduled to debut as a 2010 model (Ford is trying to gauge demand for passenger versions of the cargo van) and the Kuga launched in Europe earlier this year (its replacement will supersede the Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner and spawn a small Lincoln SUV), the others are due for a major overhaul in the next four years. Learning what does and does not appeal to American buyers early in the development process is much cheaper than trying to retrofit the vehicles later. It also provides a chance to determine whether or not there is a package size that that can be made to work for both European and American customers.—CAS