DETROIT — Alan Mulally's global vehicle plan hit its first big roadblock last week courtesy of the recession.
Desperate to conserve cash and avoid taking emergency government loans, Ford Motor Co. is delaying the next-generation Transit van, one of four key vehicle platforms in CEO Mulally's global plan. Other platforms are the subcompact Fiesta, the compact Focus and the mid-sized Mondeo cars.
Ford confirmed the delay last week but wouldn't provide a new timetable. Executives blamed the economic crisis and falling sales, which will eliminate 850 jobs in the United Kingdom.
The next-generation Transit was scheduled to be Ford's first global full-sized commercial van. A version of the Transit, code-named V363, had been planned for North American production beginning in 2011 for the 2012 model year, according to supplier and industry sources. It was expected to replace the stalwart Econoline, which has consistently accounted for about half of the U.S. commercial van market for years.
It's unclear when the full-sized Transit will arrive in the United States. A Ford source says the product remains in the North American cycle plan.
The Transit delay shows the lengths to which Ford will go to survive without government loans — and the operational oversight that goes with them.
Aside from its cash hoard, Ford has few options to generate new money.
Barring a sales recovery, that leaves cost cutting as Job 1 to avoid the loans.
Before the Transit announcement, Ford global marketing chief Jim Farley acknowledged last week that product delays are possible.
"That will be a very difficult conversation. We may have to make adjustments here and there," Farley said on "Autoline Detroit." "But we are so committed to keeping our product portfolio fresh and world-class, and that is our number one priority."
John Revill contributed to this report