The smallest SUV Ford has sold in the U.S. for more than a decade has been the Escape. But in other parts of the world, specifically emerging economies such as the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) there is demand for something smaller and more economical. Fittingly, Ford chose the New Delhi Auto Expo in India's capital to unveil its pint-sized SUV, the EcoSport. The name is already used on a model sold in Brazil, but it used the show in India as an opportunity to announce its global (or at least emerging-market) plans for the model.
Mulally is on a quick globtrotting campaign for the One Ford product. He'll reveal the EcoSport at the New Delhi Auto Expo, a biennial event Ford considers as important as the Frankfurt, Beijing, and Detroit shows. After New Delhi, Mulally returns to Detroit for next week's North American International Auto Show, before flying off to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show. That's some serious frequent flier mileage.
With the EcoSport, already a popular Ford in Brazil, the company is covering the B and I among the so-called BRIC countries, which have growing, emerging economies as the European Union teeters on the brink of collapse and the U.S. economy's recovery struggles. The "R," Russia, is a likely market for EcoSports exported from India, while the "C," China, likely would require its own assembly plant. Don't count that out. Ford says the new, small CUV will be sold in "other" markets to be announced later.
Including the U.S.? No. Though rumors half a decade ago had the current-generation EcoSport coming to the U.S., Ford doesn't consider our market ready for a B-segment crossover, no matter how optimistic Buick is for its new "baby Enclave" here.
Billed as the latest example of "One Ford," the EcoSport should be roughly the Encore's size. Ford will offer myriad powertrains, varying depending on the needs and demands of the local market. The 1.0-liter EcoBoost 3-cylinder will be included in some markets, though Ford hasn't identified which.
It's designed to evoke traditional sport/utility cues, including a "command" driving position with a high ground clearance and integrated lower body cladding, and a spare tire mounted on the swing-out tailgate. Its nose treatment, however, isn't the new face of Ford as revealed in the Evos concept from Frankfurt, but rather the current design language, with a smaller grille over a large, oval lower fascia.
Ford has been late to the China party, so it's trying to make up for that by going big in India, a market tipped to be the next big thing, with perhaps even more potential than its powerhouse neighbor to the north. Two plants costing Ford $1 billion are under construction in India's Sanand and Gujarat regions. One is for stamping, body, paint and assembly of vehicle bodies and the other is an engine machining and assembly facility.
Ford also is investing more money into its Chennai assembly plant, where it will build the EcoSport. The Chennai engine plant will be expanded to increase capacity by 90,000, to 340,000 per year.
The new Ford EcoSport launches mid-year in Brazil, followed later by the Asian markets.