Ford SVT Lightning Update
By: Mike Magda Posted: 11-02-04 19:31
© 2004

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The director of Ford's Special Vehicle Team (SVT) steadfastly denied that the Lightning pickup has been killed.

John Coletti said some media and enthusiasts have interpreted the group's decision to postpone work on the next-generation truck as meaning the program is cancelled.

"That's simply not true," said Coletti, who spoke with at the Innovations Day luncheon, which kicked off Ford's participation in the 2004 SEMA Show in Las Vegas on Nov. 1.

"It was a business decision," continued Coletti, who was a panelist along with such legends as Parnelli Jones and Carroll Shelby to help commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Ford Mustang. "This was almost like a perfect storm. There were a lot of things that hit us simultaneously and now it's just a matter of us getting back in step."

Officials said that switching to next-generation platforms of the F-150 and Mustang hit too close together for engineering to proceed at a timely pace on both vehicles. Also, the plants where the vehicles are to be assembled have changed and acclimating the procedures and parts to a new workforce would have stretched the SVT team too thin.

"We're trying to find a slot that it [Lightning] makes sense in," continued Coletti. "The current slot just didn't make business sense so we're going to go back and reassess it."

"A lot of people are taking it to mean a stronger word than postponement, and we're here to say it's just a postponement. But the customers will get the truck they're looking for."

Talk through the rumor mills and chat rooms sometimes focused on lack of performance in early versions and that the new Lightning might not be able to reclaim its status as the world's fastest pickup, a title now held by the Dodge Ram SRT-10. Coletti said there are always such development steps with any performance project.

"Some of the early ones just didn't get there. It wasn't meeting our internal objectives," said Coletti, who also stressed that some of the early models of the Mustang Cobra and even Ford GT didn't reach performance goals in the beginning. "That's not usual. We evaluate it as a team and say we got to have more or we say it's right," said Coletti.

A Lightning concept based on the new F-150 platform made its debut at the 2003 North American International Auto Show. It featured aggressive bodywork and a 500-horsepower, supercharged 5.4-liter V8 engine and an independent rear suspension.

Sources from the SVT Owners Association who attended the luncheon said their membership has been outraged at the decision. But some also admit the value of their Lightnings has increased.

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