LA auto show: New Ford Escape makes splash in Hollywood – Detroit Free Press
LOS ANGELES — The stars could be aligning for the 2017 Ford Escape which staged its debut under the bright lights of Hollywood Monday night.
The Escape compact crossover is the No.2 player in the hottest segment of the U.S. market and receives a major upgrade for the 2017 model year. And Ford will be able to make more of them with plans to devote the full capacity of the Louisville, Ky., plant to Escape by moving Lincoln MKC production elsewhere.
“We will sell every Escape we can make,” said Kevin Schad, Escape brand manager.
It might not be enough to unseat the Honda CR-V as best-selling small crossover but the revamped Escape with two new engines, start-stop capability and more inventory should add up to big sales and profits for Ford.
The Escape is Ford’s second-best seller in the U.S. after the F-150 pickup. Ford sold more than 306,000 Escapes last year and could set a new record this year. The CR-V sold almost 29,000 more. It was unveiled in Los Angeles in advance of the LA auto show this week.
“The Escape is a very important product to Ford because it is in a segment where the growth is phenomenal and will continue to be,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with AutoTrader.com.
Ford calls this the fourth generation of the Escape even though it is not on a new platform. But the automaker feels it warrants the characterization because it has a new look, interior and two new engines, said Milton Wong, chief program engineer.
The 2017 Escape will go on sale next summer. It will put about 275,000 new vehicles on the road with start-stop technology making it Ford’s biggest foray into the fuel-saving technology to date.
The 2017 model has two new EcoBoost turbocharged engines, a 1.5-liter that is standard on the SE and Titanium trim levels and an optional 2-liter twin-scroll engine generating 245 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. Both have start-stop systems that automatically turn the engine off during the 16 minutes the average driver idles per day. The vehicle restarts when it is time to accelerate.
The two engines are expected to account for 90% of Escape sales. The other 10% is the base S trim level which has the carryover 2.5-liter engine. All are mated to a six-speed transmission.
Ford has start-stop on the F-150 but only 25% of buyers choose the 2.7-liter engine that offers it. The technology is also on the Edge but only 4% opt for the engine with the feature.
The Escape is also a critical step in Ford’s SUV ladder. This year more than 5 million Americans are expected to buy an SUV which amounts to a third of the U.S.market. It is forecast to reach 40% by 2020, according to Ford U.S. sales analyst Erich Merkle.
Compact SUVs have grown to 17% of U.S sales and became the largest segment in 2014.
“And it is not just a U.S. phenomenon,” said Krebs. “Small crossover sales are growing all over the world.”
In the U.S., the Escape appeals to Millennials replacing their first car with a utility vehicle that meets their needs as they get married, start families and need a more practical vehicle, said Schad.
As they age, they migrate to the mid-size Edge with a bigger backseat for children and gear. From there buyers can move to the three-row Explorer or the full-size Expedition. By comparison, General Motors is missing a mid-sized crossover.
But the beauty of the Escape is it also appeals to Baby Boomers who outspend any other group 2:1. They like the size and height of an Escape and want the top trim level loaded with technology and creature comforts.
“They are the fastest growing group of compact SUV buyers,” Schad said.
And they will switch brands if a vehicle does not have all the technology today’s consumer wants, Krebs said. An AutoTrader study released today found 65% of those shopping for a new vehicle would switch brands to have all the technology features they desired in their next vehicle.
Ford introduced the Escape in September 2000 as a 2001 model and has grown its sales threefold. A hybrid was added in 2005 but was discontinued after the 2012 model year when the C-Max joined the lineup.
The Escape was first to introduce features such as the hands-free liftgate and Sync 3 infotainment system. The 2017 model will be first to offer an enhanced Sync 3 Connect that can remotely check the fuel gauge, unlock and and start the vehicle.
Today’s Escape buyer is 53% female — the highest of any Ford vehicle — college educated and loyal to the brand. They will trade in their Escape for another Ford.
Pricing will be announced closer to the sale date.
Contact Alisa Priddle: 313-222-5394 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AlisaPriddle
Highlights of 2017 Ford Escape