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Ford to retire Thunderbird after 2005 model year

DETROIT (AP) _ We had fun, fun, fun 'til Ford took the T-bird away. Again.

Ford Motor Co. said Thursday the 2005 model year will be the last for the current-generation Ford Thunderbird, a retro-styled convertible that went on sale in August 2001.

Ford had planned to discontinue the Thunderbird after the 2005 or 2006 model year but told employees Thursday production will end in July.

``We promised all along that this Thunderbird would have a limited production run, and we're being true to our word,'' Ford Division President Steve Lyons said. ``Thunderbird was a terrific image builder for the Ford brand showroom at a time when we needed it.''

The Wixom Assembly Plant northwest of Detroit, which produces the Thunderbird, will continue to make the Lincoln LS and Town Car and also will be the final assembly point for the Ford GT supercar, which was released last year.

The Thunderbird, one of Ford's most celebrated nameplates, first went on sale in 1954. Its peak sales year was 1977, when 322,517 redesigned Thunderbirds were sold. The Thunderbird went through numerous design changes over the decades before going on hiatus in 1997.

The redesigned 2002 Thunderbird got off to a roaring start. Dealers were flooded with pre-orders and got $10,000 premiums on top of the car's sticker price of $30,000. It also won over critics, securing Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year award.

But the flurry died down almost as quickly as it emerged. Ford had projected sales of 25,000 per year but fell well short of that mark. Just 11,998 Thunderbirds sold in 2004, 33 percent fewer than 2003.

Ford has sold a total of 54,360 new-generation Thunderbirds since 2001. The company said it has sold 4.2 million Thunderbirds since 1954.
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