TheStreet) -- For the final act in the career of superstar CEO Alan Mulally,
(F - Get Report) unveiled a truly global 2015 Edge and will launch the U.S.-inspired mid-sized crossover sport utility vehicle into the global markets.
It is one more tribute to Mulally's OneFord concept, which will live forever not only in the plastic wallet cards that Mulally inspired but also in practice that markets vehicles globally, upending the Ford fiefdoms of the past and also reducing the number of Ford's global platforms to nine by 2017, down from 15 today.
The 2015 Ford Edge was unveiled simultaneously on Tuesday in both Detroit and Europe. It will go on sale early in 2015 and will be sold in more than 100 markets. Mulally will step down as CEO July 1.
Edge was introduced in 2006, just as Mulally arrived at Ford. The timing was good. The crossover market sport utility vehicle segment, using a car-based design rather than a truck-based design, has become the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. auto market.
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"The 2015 Edge was planned to be global from day one," said Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "That is an indication of Ford's new direction, more and more planning vehicles as global."
Brauer said the most important change is an updated two-liter EcoBoost engine. "This is a tiny little engine that speaks for a mid-size crossover," he said. "It speaks to the capability Ford is getting from the EcoBoost engine and to the engine's continuing evolution."
Additionally, he said, Edge will have a premium "titanium" trim level that could add about $10,000 to the cost, which has not been announced but could be around $30,000, Brauer estimated. The new Ford Expedition will also have a titanium trim level, he said.
The 2015 Edge will have the same platform as the Fusion and the S-Max multi-activity vehicle in Europe. But Ford said it will have a new body structure, redesigned suspension and less noise and vibration, and will be the first Ford product to feature new adaptive steering technology, which will make it easier to maneuver by altering the ratio between the driver's turn on the steering wheel and how much the front wheel turns.
"The original Edge was our first entry into the world of crossover utilities -- a technologically advanced vehicle that was the perfect blend of sedan comfort and efficiency with SUV functionality," said Raj Nair, group vice president, global product development, in a prepared statement. "Now, we are building on that success."
In North America, Ford was the top-selling utility vehicle brand for a third consecutive year in 2013. In Europe, Ford utility vehicle sales grew nearly 20% in 2013, while in China, Ford's share of the utility vehicle segment reached 4.5% in 2013, up from less than 1% in 2012.
At midday on Wednesday, Ford shares were trading up 21 cents to $17.18 while GM
shares were up 31 cents to $36.89.
Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.
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