Ford is rolling out 4 new SUVs

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Ford EscapeNewspressA Ford Escape SUV.

Ford is preparing to introduce four new SUVs, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.

The automaker will design and develop a quartet of new models that are intended to attack segments in which Ford currently lacks products.

The current boom in US auto sales in particular has been defined by strong sales of SUVs, leading some industry executives and observers to conclude that a permanent shift away from sedans is underway.

For its part, Ford has said that it will continue to produce a balanced portfolio of vehicles, but this move indicates that the Detroit car maker sees significant potential in expanding beyond its current, already considerable SUV offering.

Three key factors are driving Ford's bet:

Young, growing families

First, the company expects that young people will be starting families in the next few years, as the economy continues its rebound from the Great Recession.

Among younger buyers, a generational move away from sedans appears to be underway. Crossovers and SUVs are now the starting point for families.

Older, seasoned SUV owners

Ford also expects that older customers who have been buying SUVs and crossovers will be looking to stay with that type of vehicle, enabling Ford to compete with new products at both ends of the age spectrum.

gas prices gas stationJoe Raedle/Getty ImagesJosephina Romano fills her vehicle with gas at a U-Gas station on October 19, 2015 in Miami, Florida.

Gas-guzzlers, no more

Finally, Ford and other automakers have made improvements to engine and other technologies over the past decade, erasing some of the gas-stigma that was attached to the SUVs of the past.

SUVs are now sufficiently fuel-efficient to compete in some cases with smaller cars. Obviously, however, lower gas prices have also encouraged consumers to take another look at SUVs.

Ford SUV trucksScott Olson/Getty ImagesA 2013 Ford Escape sits at a dealership on November 26, 2013 in Niles, Illinois.

From Ford's perspective, there's much less risk to deal with now when it comes to launching new SUVs than there might have been even a few years back. On balance, this announcement suggests that Ford and the auto industry think the SUV market will remain strong for the rest of the decade.

The automaker didn't provide specifics on the SUVs it will be adding to its roster, although it did suggest that the vehicles will be sold in global markets. It also didn't get into detail on pricing or timing.

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