ATLANTA, USA - The Ford Cougar is the Ford Puma's big brother.
Ford's small, sporty Puma made a splash in fall 1997. It wants to build on that success with the Cougar.
The Cougar is a low-cost, low-risk project. The car uses many Mondeo parts, and its sales goals in Europe are modest, at 20,000 per year. The North America goal for the Mercury Cougar is 50,000 units a year.
Nevertheless, Ford is taking some risks. The Cougar will be nearly identical in both North America and Europe. The only changes are slight ride, handling and tire changes. That makes Cougar the most global of the current Ford offerings.
If the car is the same, the marketing is not. In the USA, Ford expects women in their 20s and 30s will account for up to 60 percent of sales. In Europe, the target is men in their 40s, and men are expected to be 80 percent of the customers.
The Cougar and the Focus pioneered Ford's new global method of auto development under Ford 2000. Product developers at Ford's Small and Medium Car Vehicle Center in Europe prepared a worldwide marketing plan for the Cougar.
The team performed market research and customer clinics in the USA, Germany, and France.
'A multicultural attitude was imbedded in the team from the beginning,' said Martin Lunt, chief program engineer for the Cougar.
European marketing for the Cougar will emphasize the car's performance, safety, and New Edge styling, Lunt said.
Ford expects the UK and Germany will each account for 40 percent of Cougar sales in Europe.
The Cougar's interior and exterior sheet metal are completely different than the Mondeo. But the Cougar will use nearly the same underbody, suspension, and 2.0-liter I-4 and 2.5-liter V-6 engines as the Mondeo. The car will be assembled at AutoAlliance, the joint Mazda-Ford factory in Michigan that also produces the Mazda 626.