Likely to hit the market by 2018

Ford has recently announced plans to invest up to €200 million to manufacture the EcoSport crossover at its Craiova Assembly Plant in Romania starting in the autumn of 2017. Also, Ford made a commitment to launch five new SUVs and crossovers in Europe by 2019, the first of which will be the new Edge, which is set to debut in the second quarter of 2016. Now, the Blue Oval is looking to benefit from the boom of the crossover market by adding rugged version of its mainstream cars.

That’s the word from Barb Samardzich, Ford of Europe CEO, who told Automotive News that the strategy is similar to Audi’s Allroad range.

“We see a big growth area in vehicles that are a bit rugged. They are not SUVs but they still have a more active look to them," she said, adding that the look could be applied to several models, including smaller vehicles such as the Fiesta. "Put some black cladding in the right places, a roof-rack and you could get it looking a lot more active," she concluded.

Samardzich declined to confirm if these rugged-looking cars are part of the five new crossover/SUV bundle set to be launched over the next three years, but they are expected to hit the market in the near future alongside the redesigned Edge and facelifted Kuga. The most likely candidates for the rugged exterior package are the Focus Estate and the Fiesta, but the wagon version of the midsize Mondeo could also be in the books.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters

A new family of Allroad-like vehicles could help Ford increase its crossover sales on the European market. Expected to surpass 200,000 units for the first time in 2016, Ford will most likely benefit from a range of crossover-like models, which will attract drivers that wouldn’t normally buy a big SUV. A cladded, raised version of the Focus Estate would give Ford a competitor for the popular Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, while a similar version of the Fiesta would appeal to customers in need of a compact car suited for the active life style. Current options include the Volkswagen CrossPolo and the recently introduced Hyundai i20 Active, but there’s definitely more room in this niche. Finally, a more rugged version of the Mondeo Estate would make a more affordable proposition to the Audi A6 Allroad and likely a more popular option to the Seat Leon xPerience.

For what it’s worth, Ford has already experimented with this concept. In 2009, it launched the Focus X Road, a model based on the Focus Estate that was equipped with body cladding and raised suspension. However, the X Road was just a regular Focus under the shell, with no off-roading skills whatsoever. What’s more, the model was made in only 300 units and sold exclusively in the Netherlands.

Source: Automotive News

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert -
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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Press Release

Ford Motor Company confirmed today that it is investing up to €200 million to manufacture the Ford EcoSport small SUV at its Craiova Assembly Plant in Romania starting in the autumn of 2017.

The EcoSport sold in Europe, excluding Russia, is currently built at Ford India’s Chennai Vehicle Assembly Plant. Ford’s Chennai plant will continue to build the EcoSport for domestic Indian sales and for many export markets around the world.

“EcoSport sales are up nearly 30 percent this year and given the continued outlook for sales growth in the small SUV segment, it’s the right time to move EcoSport production to Europe and take advantage of the excellent workforce and operations we have in Craiova,” said Jim Farley, president and CEO, Ford of Europe.

SUVs are the fastest-growing segment in the European new vehicle market, up 23 percent last year compared with an overall industry sales growth of 10 percent. The small SUV segment in which the EcoSport competes rose 44 percent in 2015. Ford expects the small SUV segment to grow to about 1.5 million vehicles a year by 2017 – an increase of 35 percent on 2015.

Today’s announcement follows productive discussions with the Romanian Government on developing a framework to help Ford transition from its existing investment to this new opportunity and to help maintain the global competitiveness of the Ford Craiova manufacturing operations.

Since taking over the Craiova facility in 2008, Ford has invested more than €1 billion in its Romanian manufacturing operations. The Ford B-MAX multi-activity vehicle is currently built in Craiova, plus Ford’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine – the only engine to win the International Engine of the Year award three years in succession.

Ford also said today it will continue to seek opportunities to build further products in Craiova so that it can fully utilize the facility’s capacity and asset utilization.

“Craiova has a bright future if it continues to improve its competitiveness and operational flexibility. The recent successful agreement on a two-year labor contract was a very positive step,” Farley said. “We also need to continue to work with the government and local authorities to improve infrastructure and logistics.”

Today’s news follows Ford’s recent commitment to launch five new vehicles to compete in the SUV and crossover space in Europe in the next three years, starting with new Ford Edge in the second quarter of 2016. Ford expects to surpass 200,000 SUV sales in Europe for the first time in 2016 – a growth of more than 30 percent compared with 2015.

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