Ford plans to invest $US5 billion to $6 billion in Volvo over the next four years to add up to five new midsize vehicles to its range, expand factories and boost US sales by over 50%, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and reports elsewhere.

Coming hard on the heels of last week’s rumours that Ford was planning to sell the Swedish marque, reports in the WSJ and the British car magazine Autocar have emphasised the new products on the way and the engines and platforms they will share with other new products such as a redesigned Ford Focus and a replacement for Mazda’s 323 called the 4.

“Ford has high expectations for us,” Volvo spokesman Olle Axelson told the WSJ, adding that the investment showed Ford’s “good faith” in Volvo’s potential.

A big chunk would go towards new or redesigned products based on the ‘P1X’ programme which could spawn five new mid-size vehicles. The WSJ said the platform basis was most likely that developed by Mazda for its new 626-replacing 6; Autocar talked of a new Focus-size platform and replacements for the current S/V40 ranged dubbed S50 (a saloon primarily aimed at the US) and V60 (a taller wagon, possibly with 4WD derivatives aimed at European buyers).

Axelson confirmed to the WSJ that two of the five new Volvos would replace the S and V40, which have been slow sellers in the US despite prices starting in the low $20,000 range.

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He added that the expanded product line would be supported by expanded production with manufacturing facilities enlargened to produce 600,000 units a year between factories in Sweden and Belgium, up from 425,000 last year.

Volvo transferred its 50% interest in the Dutch NedCar factory, where the current S/V40 range is built alongside the similar-under-the-skin Mitsubishi Carisma, to Mitsubishi in 2001.

The plant will stop building Volvos next year, replacing them with additional Mitsubishi models and the planned four-seat Smart car.