Ford Escort Concept goes back to basicsFri, 19 Apr 2013 21:30:00 EST
Here's the thing about China: The folks buying cars there have a very different set of standards than shoppers in many other markets around the globe. While we all drool over hot metal with bold designs, and while we appreciate automakers going an extra step to inject even their cheapest offerings with aggressive and interesting cues, that sort of sheetmetal sex appeal doesn't always sell in the People's Republic. Case in point is Jaguar, which may be designing a more traditional-looking version of its XJ for the Chinese market, or more to the point of this story, Ford currently sells the less-exciting, last-generation Focus compact in China right alongside the new one.
So consider this new Shanghai-bound C-segment concept a preview of what's to come for that more traditional, budget-minded, less-sexy market. More proof of this pudding: Ford's even calling this concept the Escort – a nod to the Blue Oval's compact car days of yore, and a name that stirs up thoughts of basic, affordable transportation rather than great driving dynamics or bold design. "Customers in China described seeking a vehicle that is stylish – but not one that is arrogant or pretentious," Ford states. And this new Escort concept previews a possibility of providing exactly that for this rapidly expanding automotive market.
What you're looking at, then, is one of the most simple Ford designs we've seen of late, though it still incorporates all of the automaker's latest DNA. The signature hexagonal grille is front and center, flanked by attractive LED headlamps and chrome-rimmed foglamp housings. The entire car's design focuses on clean, smooth surfaces, with one strong character line flowing from front to back just below the beltline. We will say that the car looks decidedly more premium from the rear view, where narrow, horizontal taillamps with an LED accent give the car added visual width. Bland as it may be, it's a handsome little concept, though fear what would likely happen if all of the conceptual details get dumbed down for a production model.
We aren't able to see inside the concept, and no details have been released about what might lie under the hood. Ford is mostly using the Escort as a way to show Chinese customers what could be in store for a future product offering, especially since the automaker is committed to bringing 15 new products to China by the year 2015. Ford even plans to build five new plants in China by 2016 as part of a larger plan to open seven facilities throughout Asia-Pacific, with enough capacity to produce roughly 2.7 million vehicles annually in the region.
In addition to the Escort Concept, Ford will use the Shanghai Motor Show to debut the Chinese-market Mondeo, complete with its new 1.5-liter EcoBoost inline four-cylinder engine, as well as the new Fiesta ST. Scroll down for the full press blast.
Ford Going Further at Shanghai with Escort Concept – a Distinctive, Desirable Car Designed for Chinese Customers
- Ford Escort Concept blends design that is distinctive and desirable with functionality, quality, roominess, fuel economy and safety
- Ford Escort Concept shows the future vision for how Ford could expand its global compact car platform in China
- Ford Escort Concept is designed to meet the demands of Chinese consumers within a specific subsegment of China's largest and fastest-growing segments, compact cars
SHANGHAI, China, April 20, 2013 – Ford's commitment to Chinese automotive customers took a giant leap forward today at Auto Shanghai 2013 with the unveiling of the Ford Escort Concept – the latest example of how the company's global DNA continues to evolve and cater to a growing and diverse mix of customers.
The Ford Escort Concept showcases Ford's vision for how the company could serve additional customers in China's compact car segment – a segment that accounts for over 25 percent of the country's total vehicle industry and includes the Ford Focus, the best-selling nameplate in China last year as well as the best-selling nameplate worldwide.
Building on the success of the Focus, the Ford Escort Concept is a new kind of compact car, designed for a very different customer. Both Focus and Escort Concept deliver high quality, safety and fuel economy. While Focus successfully meets the needs of those seeking a fun driving experience and high level of technology, the Escort Concept is for those customers who value exceptional roominess, uncompromised functionality and sophisticated design.
"By listening to our customers in China, we have developed the Ford Escort Concept to serve a new class of compact car customers," said Jim Farley, executive vice president, Global Marketing, Sales and Service and Lincoln, Ford Motor Company. "These are customers whose needs are not being completely met by existing compact cars. They are discerning, modern families, who want uncompromised functionality, quality and safety for themselves and the ones they care about."
Simple, elegant, harmonious design
Ford's success and experience in the compact car segment with Focus – along with customer feedback – provided valuable guidelines for the overall design of the Ford Escort Concept.
In Ford's market research, customers in China described seeking a vehicle that is stylish – but not one that is arrogant or pretentious – while also allowing for a balanced life that almost always includes family and friends.
"We found a large segment of compact car buyers in China appreciate sophisticated design and want a more spacious family-size vehicle," said Martin Smith, executive design director, Europe and Asia Pacific. "The Ford Escort Concept reflects those desires.
"Its roomy interior, attention to detail, and precise and refined surface language really give the concept car its harmonious aesthetics, where desirable is actually attainable."
Ford designers started by adding length and then sculpting the vehicle with elegant lines to give it a natural flow. The longer profile creates more room for a comfortable and spacious interior while maintaining harmonious proportions.
While being designed for the specific needs of this subsegment, the Ford Escort Concept is true to the new global face of Ford, which was introduced on the all-new Mondeo – currently on display at Auto Shanghai 2013 – and made its first appearance on the Ford Evos Concept in 2011. On the Escort Concept, the slightly more upright grille and elongated, jeweled headlamps – carefully designed to resemble the lucky figure eight – provide a distinctive front end.
"The Ford Escort Concept represents the idea that you can get a compact vehicle with a premium aesthetic without sacrificing key features like space for families or having to pay a premium price tag," said Smith.
Committed to China
"The Ford Escort Concept gives an indication of how we could expand our offerings to compact car customers and further solidify our commitment to growing our presence in China," said John Lawler, chairman and CEO, Ford China. "Combined with the new Ford Mondeo, our terrific SUV lineup and the best-selling Focus, you can start to see what our lineup will look like when we reach our goal of bringing 15 new vehicles to China by 2015.
"The unprecedented growth and significant size of the vehicle market – especially the compact car segment – combined with the high degree of dynamic change in China is allowing Ford to extend its product plans to take advantage of the pace being set by this market."
The compact car segment in China today is around 5.5 million units per year, approximately the size of total annual auto sales in Germany and the UK combined, and larger than the total annual volume of vehicles sold in Japan (the world's third largest car market).
A number of manufacturers serve customers with legacy products in this segment, including Ford with the Ford Focus Classic.
The Ford Escort Concept offers a potential all-new compact car alternative that is attainable. It is the perfect embodiment of Ford's Go Further brand promise.
Today's unveiling of the Escort Concept is the latest example of Ford Motor Company's commitment to China, and follows the recent introduction of the new Mondeo and at Auto Shanghai 2013, and the latest launches of the all-new EcoSport and Kuga.
Since 2006, Ford has invested a total of $4.9 billion in China. The company's presence in the region will only continue to grow.
By 2015, Ford plans to launch seven new plants in Asia Pacific – five in China – and have the ability to produce 2.7 million vehicles a year in the region.
Less than a year ago, Ford announced that as part of its largest expansion in 50 years the company would build a new state-of-the-art assembly plant in Hangzhou and double its production capacity in China to over 1 million passenger cars annually by 2015. Ford and its joint venture Changan Ford are investing $760 million in the plant.
The Hangzhou investment is in addition to a $1.1 billion investment the company made to expand capacity at its Chongqing facilities including at Changan Ford Assembly Plant No. 2, the plant that makes Focus in China.
Ford also has been expanding its dealer network in China and further developing its supply chain to deliver 15 vehicles by 2015.
By Steven J. Ewing
See also: Ford celebrates 1 millionth Mustang built at Flat Rock, Woman trades 1914 Model T in for 2013 Corvette, Submit your questions for Autoblog Podcast #329 LIVE!.