Ford’s EcoSport dominates Brazil’s compact SUV segment with a commanding 80 percent market share.
This month, Ford Brazil launches a new version of the SUV with automatic transmission for distribution to dealerships in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.
“EcoSport dominates because it has no direct competitor in the market,” said Rodrigo Lourenço, Ford brand manager for EcoSport, Focus, Fusion and Explorer in Brazil. “But the market for automatic transmissions is growing fast, and feedback from dealers and customers has driven our decision to introduce an automatic EcoSport.”
EcoSport arrived on the Latin American market at a time when SUVs were highly desired but were only available as high-priced imports. The rugged but affordably priced compact SUV proved right for a region where roads are often rough. EcoSport is available in a “flex-fuel” model (Flex 1.6L) that can run on gas or ethanol. In Brazil, ethanol is 40 percent less expensive than gas.
Lourenço describes EcoSport owners as urban and active with two or more vehicles per household. They’re college graduates in their late 30s and early 40s who enjoy travel and the outdoors. They are almost evenly split between men and women with a significantly higher percentage of female owners than the industry average. Market research shows that they value vehicle appearance, driving dynamics and roominess as well as the vehicle’s commanding seating position and affordability.
“It’s a beautiful car,” wrote an unidentified Brazilian consumer . “It is very roomy and features some practical gadgets. Plus, the car has great stability and is quite fun to drive on the close curves. You feel how tight the car is.”
EcoSport has won several awards, such as Quatro Rodas magazine’s “The Best Buy of 2004” in the SUV category, and Brazilian Association of the Automotive Press’ “Best Sport-Utility of 2004.”
“EcoSport is an icon of Ford’s turnaround in Brazil. It has really improved our brand image, and we fully expect the new automatic to broaden the vehicle’s appeal,” Lourenço said. “The EcoSport is important to our dealers, not only because of the high volumes, but also due to the profits it generates.”
One of the keys to EcoSport’s success is its high profile through advertising, partnerships and promotions.
“The EcoSport is the Ford model most wanted for promotions for various companies and industries,” Lourenço said. Among the successful EcoSport promotions are the Nike 10K Circuit running races and the sponsorship of the popular band Camaleão during Brazil’s annual carnival celebration.
Ford Brazil also has enjoyed success with a special edition of the EcoSport known as the FreeStyle, which has unique packaging and appearance. The vehicle sponsored a São Paulo Auto Show promotion that asked attendees “What is the meaning of ‘living the new’ for you?” – “Living the New” being Ford Brazil’s marketing tagline. What started as a limited edition run of 1,600 units recently increased to 6,100 units with an updated appearance and upgraded features.
Lourenço said there is already a high demand for the new automatic transmission model. The number of people waiting in line to replace their current model with the new version already is on the rise.
“EcoSport’s leadership will surely increase with the launch of the automatic,” said Antônio Baltar, Ford Brazil general marketing manager. “Most of the consumers we’ve surveyed mentioned that this was what was missing in the lineup and praised the initiative.”