Escape to California: Ford focuses on L.A.
Ford is using the Los Angeles Auto Show this week to introduce the next-generation Escape crossover and several other vehicles the company believes will boost its sales in the Golden State.
"California is the center for small cars and small utilities," said Ford Motor Co. spokesman Mark Schirmer. "Los Angeles is hugely important."
The Ford brand has boosted its retail market share in California from 7.2 percent in 2008 to 9 percent in the first eight months of this year. Ford executives say the vehicles they are showing will play well in California; they include the 2013 Escape, the Focus ST performance hatchback, a new-look Flex crossover and several updated Mustangs.
All are 2013 models arriving in the first quarter of 2012. In addition, Ford will be showing off new and improved versions of its MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch electronic touch screen systems. Problems with the first generation, introduced last year, sent Ford back to the drawing board after it took hits from Consumer Reports and other customer satisfaction surveys. Ford says the new system will be simpler and easier to operate.
But the star of the show will be the third-generation Ford Escape crossover. The redesigned 2013 Escape will bear scant resemblance to the squarish outgoing model. The new Escape strongly resembles a design concept called the Vertrek shown at the 2011 Detroit auto show.
The Escape will be offered with three engine options, including the base 2.5-liter four cylinder that is naturally aspirated and two versions of Ford's EcoBoost engine: 1.6 liters and 2.0 liters. Ford expects the 1.6-liter EcoBoost to generate 175 hp and 170 pounds-feet of torque. The 2.0-liter version will replace Ford's 3.0-liter V-6. Ford will drop the hybrid version of the Escape. Ford is moving its hybrid powertrain to the C-Max hybrid.
The current Escape has battled with the Honda CR-V in the entry-level crossover category. So far this year, the Escape is first in the segment as sales have shot up 31 percent.
The Flex large crossover has polarized opinion with its boxy looks, but Californians seem to like it, and Ford sells more of them in the state than anywhere else. For 2013, the Flex gets a rounder, more streamlined look.
The North American production version of the Focus ST will debut in Los Angeles. Ford is calling the ST its "first global performance car." It will be sold in about 40 countries. The Focus ST will be powered by a 2.0-liter version of Ford's direct injection, turbocharged EcoBoost engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. The ST will be a five-door hatchback featuring a sports suspension, tuned exhaust and a roof spoiler.
The Fiesta ST Concept, which debuted at the recent Frankfurt show, will give a strong hint of Ford's plans for a high-performance version of its Fiesta subcompact.
Playing to the more traditional performance market, Ford will also introduce several new Mustang models.
You can reach Bradford Wernle at email@example.com.