Ford's new EcoSport SUV will be imported from India

HOLLYWOOD — Ford revealed a new, small addition to its SUV lineup here Monday, leading up to the Los Angeles Show. And the introduction came with a big surprise.

In what may be a first among Detroit's Big 3 automakers, EcoSport is going to be made in India and imported into the U.S.

General Motors recently started importing the Buick Envision SUV from China, but Ford is rare in choosing to import EcoSport -- what will become its smallest crossover -- from Chennai, India, when it goes on sale in 2018.

Ford has come under attack in recent months from President-elect Donald Trump for moving production of small cars from the U.S. to Mexico. All other major automakers also have expanded and built new plants in Mexico. EcoSport is also made in Brazil.

"We build EcoSport in six locations around the globe. We sell it in 100 markets, and so, just like we make Explorers and export from here into other global markets, we are going to export EcoSport from Asia Pacific, and we are going to sell it here in the U.S," said Michael O'Brien, Ford marketing manager for SUVs.

Ford has made the EcoSport in India since 2013. The EcoSport also is assembled in Brazil, Thailand and Russia and will be made in Romania starting in autumn 2017. When Ford introduced the Transit Connect small delivery vehicle into the U.S., it was imported from Turkey.

"We are a global company, we have a logistics operation shipping Explorers, F-Seriesand Escapes all over the planet," O'Brien said. "We know how to do it."

Ford is launching the subcompact EcoSport at a time when sales of small SUVs are exploding. U.S. sales of compact SUVs topped 276,000 in 2015. Ford predicts that number will double over the next five years, to more than 550,000.

Some would argue that Ford is late to the subcompact SUV game. EcoSport will compete with vehicles such as the Chevrolet TraxFiat 500XHonda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3 and Nissan Juke.

"I think our view is that while (the) segment has grown significantly, there is lots more growth coming in 2020. We love our position. ... We think our timing is going to be just great," O'Brien said.

Ford says it sells more SUVs and crossovers than any automaker. It has sold more than 12.5 million SUVs globally over the past 25 years. Since 2003, Ford has sold 1.7 million EcoSports.

In the U.S., Ford is aiming the EcoSport at two main consumer groups — Millennials and empty nesters. That's why Ford choose to reveal the EcoSport right off the Hollywood Walk of Fame at an event headlined  hip-hop producer and Snapchat king DJ Khaled titled "Go Small, Live Big."

Khaled is an American record producer and radio personality known for short, esoteric speeches on Snapchat. Snapchat is a social media service that sends a photo or video to someone that lasts only up to 10 seconds before it disappears.

"He's the king of Snapchat. ... He gets about 3 to 4 million views per day from his content," said Chantel Lenard, executive director of U.S. marketing. "So he is very well known in that space, and we think it connects well with the millennial audience."

The styling of the EcoSport reflects that of the Ford Escape, but in a smaller, bolder and more athletic package. It will be powered by a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost engine with front-wheel drive, or an optional 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine with all-wheel drive. Ford did not release information on horsepower, fuel economy or pricing.

The EcoSport will be sold in four versions, starting with the S, moving up to the SE, then the SES and finally, the  titanium.

The 2018 Ford EcoSport Titanium will come equipped with a 10-speaker, 675-watt sound system developed by B&O Play, a Harman brand. Ford says Harman's acoustic engineers spent hundreds of hours perfecting the in-vehicle music experience.

The EcoSport also will have optional HD Radio technology, SiriusXM satellite radioand a dual FM radio antenna that boosts the range and clarity of FM signals.


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