Ford plans to end production of the giant Excursion SUV, a vehicle that has became the focus of campaigns against environmentally unfriendly vehicles, according to the Detroit News.

Citing Ford sources, the Detroit News said production of the of the 19-foot Excursion would end “possibly after the 2004 model year”.

Ford spokeswoman Sara Tatchio told the newspaper that the Excursion, assembled at the Kentucky truck plant in Louisville, would be available in a 2003 model but declined to comment on its future.

The Detroit News said that the Ford “gas guzzler” was once dubbed the “Ford Valdez” by the [pro-environment campaign organisation] Sierra Club, and was originally designed to rival the equally large Chevrolet Suburban.

But the newspaper said that Excursion demand has slowed since its introduction in 1999 and, year to date, Ford has sold 15,107, down 16% from the same period in 2001 while Chevrolet shifted 66,882 Suburbans in the same period.

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The Detroit News said that Dean Benjamin, president of AutoSource Inc. in El Segundo, California, believes that Ford will build a new “Suburban fighter” within a few years.

“They are going to kill the Excursion,” Benjamin told the newspaper. “They’ll build something off the Expedition line that will be sized more appropriately,” he added, according to the Detroit News.