Sales are down, but Ford's intermediate Granada still makes sense

Ford Motor Company has made so much noise about its multinational subcompact Escort that so me of its other car lines have been lost in the dust. Such is the fate of the new-model Granada. Despite its revamped size downward -- 3 inches shorter in length and 400 pounds lighter in weight -- the ' 81-model Granada reflects the sharp downturn in domestic car sales which are keeping the US auto industry offbalance.

For the month of November, for example, Granada sales fell from 11,035 in 1979 to 7,656 this year. The Mercury Cougar, companion to the Granada, is off some 25 percent, from 4,280 a year ago to 3,145 in 1980. The sporty XR-7 tumbled from 8,413 in 1979 to 2,737 in 1980.

Unlike the Escort, Ford makes no pretense at aping an import. The Granada is an American-built car that's designed to carry up to six people, although five is a better fit. Too, it gives a Detroit-designed ride, unlike the stiffer ride of most of the imports. No matter, it holds the road well and doesn't wander over the blacktop with an indecisive air of indifference.

The car gives a good, comfortable ride -- the kind US car buyers remember from the past.

Before the import avalanche hit the US auto market a few years ago, that was usually a recipe for sure-fire success in the showroom.

The 400-pound reduction in weight may not seem like much, but every little pound helps it comes to miles per gallon on the road.

Classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as an intermediate, the '81 -model car is built on a Fairmont frame, unlike the LTD frame of the 1980 car. Even so, it is upgraded in trim even if it is a Fairmont under the skin.

Because of its slightly smaller size compared with the '80-model Granada, the car is rated by the EPA at 23 mpg with a 4-speed manual transmission and 140 -cubic-inch, 4-cylinder engine. With the larger 200-c.i., 6-cylinder power plant and automatic transmission, the figure falls to 19.

Remember, these are city-cycle figures only and do not reflect the expectedly higher mileage on the highway.

Admittedly, this is not import-style economy, but it's better than it was a year or two ago. Too, the mpg figures will only go up in the future.

There is a 255-c.i. V-8 for better performance and the penalty in fuel economy is slight. The V-8 and the "6" come with an automatic only -- a pity, indeed. The proffered engines are the same in the Fairmont.

Base price is slightly more than $6,200 for the two-door with the smallest engine under the hood.The GL package adds another $400 plus and the extras run on to infinity almost. The Granada I've been driving for a few days lists on the short side of $10,000, including transportation.

"We think our 1981s are on the right track," said Philip Caldwell, chairman of Ford Motor Company, when the new Ford cars were put on the road earlier in the fall.

Speaking to the press, he exclaimed at the time: "We invite you to inspect them closely. Check the paint and examine the fit and finish. Get into the cars. Note the interior roominess, the cargo capacity. (The chairman surely wasn't talking about the glovebox in the Granada). Drive them."

Apparently, not enough US car buyers got the message on the Granada.

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