SUV Battle

Augusto Amorim, Senior Manager, Americas Vehicle Sales Forecasts

03 April 2019

Ford Escape

Ford changes the Escape to welcome more SUVs to its showrooms

Ford has been unequivocal about its plans for North America: to leave the Car segment and flood the market with SUVs. So when the time came to renovate the Escape Compact SUV, the automaker faced a daunting task. As the second most popular Ford model in North America – notching up sales of 321,361 units last year – the Escape is critical to the brand’s success. It does, however, trail the leading Ford model, the F-150 Large Pickup, by a considerable 420,000 units.

“demand fell by 11%, with the model dropping to fifth place in the Compact SUV sales chart”

Not only does the Ford brand carry significant weight, but the Escape also resides in the region’s most popular segment. Last year, more than 3.27 million Non-Premium Compact SUVs were sold, an 8% increase on 2017. But as the Escape approached the end of its lifecycle, demand fell by 11%, with the model dropping to fifth place in the Compact SUV sales chart. The bestselling Non-Pickup vehicle, the Toyota RAV4, also hails from this segment.

To make room for a totally new, more rugged Compact SUV – which we expect to launch in late 2020 under the Maverick moniker – Ford decided to make the Escape more urban and sleek, with the most obvious change being in the design. The new Escape is up to 12 mm lower than the outgoing model, while also being longer and wider. A longer wheelbase allows for the fuel tank to be pushed out, giving an extra 2.3 inches between the first and second row of seats.

“it has made the new Escape 200 lbs lighter”

The Escape also benefits from brand new engines. The base engine, a 1.5 EcoBoost with a targeted 180 hp, boasts cylinder deactivation, a first for Ford in North America. Also available is a 2.0 EcoBoost with 250 hp. Two hybrid versions have been added to the range: a traditional hybrid and a plug-in hybrid with a maximum range of 550 miles. By the mid-2020s, we expect around 30% of Escape sales to be hybrids. As an interesting side note, back in 2004, the Escape was the first hybrid from a US manufacturer to hit the market, although it subsequently lost the alternative powertrain with the arrival of the next generation.

Ford Escape compact SUV

According to Ford, fuel efficiency is a major point of concern for drivers opting for an SUV over a Car. To ease those worries, it has made the new Escape 200 lbs lighter, while 80% of the underbody has aero shielding.

Although Ford expects the Escape to be used more widely in urban environments, it has equipped the new SUV with five drive modes: normal, eco, sport, snow/sand and slippery. It features a new 8-speed transmission, but the traditional gear stick has disappeared and been replaced by a rotary shifter, allowing room for a larger cup holder (Starbucks’ Trenta size drinks, anyone?) and a bigger glovebox that now fits a tablet.

There are several new high-tech features, too. All trim levels will come with 4G LTE to provide Wi-Fi connection for up to ten devices, but only the more expensive versions will get things like wireless charging and a 12.3” all-digital customisable cluster inherited from the Explorer Midsize SUV and Mustang Midsize Sporty. Another first for the Ford brand in North America is the heads-up display – instead of information like directions being projected onto the windshield, a small screen pops up behind the electric-assisted steering wheel.

Ford Explorer

Ford has also invested substantially in safety. A blind spot information system, rear-view camera, lane-keeping system, automatic breaking and auto high-beam headlamps are standard. The higher trim levels get more autonomy, thanks to 17 sensors and two cameras. They allow the Escape to park itself, both in parallel and perpendicularly, accelerate and stop in traffic jams and turn the steering wheel to avoid a collision.

“sales are forecast to grow by 14% and reach 358,000 in the North American market”

While the new Explorer – which is days away from pre-production – seems more of an evolution from the outgoing model, the Escape appears more revolutionary from our initial contact with it. Sales are expected to start in Q4, which prompts us to forecast an overall decline in volumes this year. However, as the Escape becomes widely available in dealerships in 2020, sales are forecast to grow by 14% and reach 358,000 in the North American market. But that is likely to be its peak year in the region. And although Ford will do its best to avoid it, we do anticipate some cannibalisation from the Maverick, as well as increased competition from elsewhere.