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Ford is one of the most historic brands in America, but it has entered what may be the most challenging period in its long history. While Ford continues to dominate the truck market, its inattention to other key products in years past has hurt it in the rest of the marketplace. Not only does Ford have to worry about a resurgence of products at its chief rival, GM, but also the success of full-line Asian automakers like Toyota, Honda, and Nissan.

The most visible change at Ford dealerships this year is the addition of the new Ford Flex wagon. The Flex is a purpose-built crossover vehicle with three rows of seating and styling guaranteed to draw stares. The Flex is essentially identical in function and size to the Taurus X wagon, but differs wildly in execution and style. The unique exterior styling wraps a more conventional interior that still boasts new features like an optional refrigerator console.

Although the Flex draws attention, the launch of the updated F-Series is crucial for Ford's finances. The restyled F-Series faces intense competition from new and restyled trucks from GM, Chrysler, and Toyota. In addition to new styling, the F-Series boasts a new frame that is both lighter and stronger. Ford still offers a dizzying array of engines, body styles, trim levels and bed lengths to ensure that there is a truck to match every customer's preferences.

Ford's other top-selling work vehicle, the E-Series, van adds an revised interior to match the updated exterior that appeared for 2008. A radically different cargo hauler, the Transit Connect will appear in 2009, giving commercial customers a new choice for hauling cargo with more fuel efficiency and maneuverability.

Ford's popular Focus coupe adds an SES trim level this year. The sport package features unique front and rear styling, and a rear window spoiler. Revised transmission gear ratios and a slight increase in horsepower improve acceleration.

The Fusion, Mustang, Taurus will all have abbreviated 2009 model years as Ford has updated models of all three headed to market for 2010. Ford also has a new line of small cars planned next year.

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