DETROIT — Responding with unusual speed, Ford Motor Co. said Thursday that it plans to produce the Lincoln Blackwood, a truck that weds the snob appeal of a luxury sport-utility vehicle with a pickup's functionality.
Ford officials said highly favorable public and media reaction to the concept version of the hybrid truck at auto shows in Los Angeles and Detroit prompted the company to quickly move up production plans.
"This is a sure hit among the affluent set from Atlanta to Los Angeles," said Matt DeLorenzo, Detroit editor for Road & Track magazine.
The Blackwood illustrates the growing fragmentation of the U.S. light-truck market as auto makers test new concepts aimed at meeting consumer demands for better-handling, more versatile vehicles.
Ford is banking on the SUV-based hybrid--which it touts as a UUV, or ultimate utility vehicle--to boost the Lincoln brand's revival by attracting more well-heeled baby boomers who have long shunned its luxury sedans.
The Blackwood is equipped with a 5.4-liter V-8 engine. The enclosed pickup bed, a relatively short 4 feet, 8 inches, has two storage compartments and is designed to serve as a trunk with a swing-out door and a cover that lifts hydraulically.
Although a thoroughly modern vehicle, the Blackwood has some retro flavor with its extensive use of wood inside and out and design cues that bring to mind 1930s touring coaches.
Ford did not disclose when the vehicle will be in showrooms, but analysts said it is likely to be sold as a year 2000 model. The vehicle is based on the Lincoln Navigator and could be built on the same SUV assembly line.
The four-door, four-passenger hybrid is expected to be priced between $45,000 and $50,000. Production volumes will be less than 10,000 vehicles annually, but the Blackwood could yield profits of $15,000 or more per unit.
"The Blackwood isn't for everyone," said Jim Rogers, Lincoln brand manager. But Ford expects it to be a hot item among the upper crust looking for an alternative to the increasingly ubiquitous SUVs.
The Blackwood is an example--albeit an extreme one--of the rush by auto makers into new segments. These include hybrid trucks that blend SUVs and pickups and crossovers that mix car and truck elements.