Say goodbye to the Ford minivans.The Detroit News is reporting that the Fairlane concept has been green lighted and will debut in production form during next year's auto show circuit. With its minivan sales in steady decline since 2000, FoMoCo has apparently decided to face the problem head-on by attacking that market segment with the new vehicle.

The Fairlane (in concept form, at least) is an attractive take on the current crossover segment, offering minivan-like carrying capacity without the frumpy stigma those vehicles carry in tow. Its large, wagon-like profile evokes SUVs while its low step-in height is more carlike. Sliding doors are ditched in favor of full-sized, rear-hinged "suicide" doors that provide easy access to the passenger cabin when fully opened. Outside, crisp lines and Ford's three-bar corporate face set the tone stylewise.

The interior offers flexible seating that can be reconfigured to accommodate different types of cargo. Fairlane's dashboard and many of the other cabin materials are pure concept car stuff, but given that Ford has done nice work with the cabins of the Five Hundred, Freestyle, and Edge, there's no reason to believe that the interior of the production Fairlane won't be up to snuff.

Now, the paper also reports that there are several aspects of the car that are still up in the air, such as the name (note to Ford: "Fairlane" is just fine) and the final styling direction. Still, news of its approval is an important development. A well-executed Fairlane should easily surpass the numbers being put up by the current minivans, and could help alleviate the pain caused by slower-selling SUVs, especially if it takes an extended period of time for those numbers to start ticking back upward.

Most importantly, this decision demonstrates that the Way Forward plan is not just empty corporate rhetoric and that "Bold Moves" is more than a throwaway tagline. If these are the kinds of maneuvers -- leaving stagnant market segments, approving compelling new products -- that can expect to see from Ford from now on, then there is reason to believe that good things are in store.

[Source: The Detroit News]

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