RICK KRANZ

How Focus shoppers become Escape buyers

Escape sales are super despite 2000 design

The Ford Escape has looked pretty much the same since the 2000 model year. Pictured is the 2012 Escape.
Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

DETROIT -- One of the big sales surprises this year is the Ford Escape.

Instead of Escape sales dropping like a rock as they should be, they have gone through the roof.

The Escape has been on the market since 2000 with little more than a minor midcycle enhancement -- that's 12 long years with essentially the same design. History teaches us that "old" product dies quickly. But not the Escape.

Through November, Ford sold 228,719 Escapes. The crossover's best year was 2010 when 191,026 were sold over 12 months, according to the Automotive News Data Center. John McElroy, a Detroit automotive journalist, pointed out Escape's record pace during a commentary this morning on a Detroit radio station.

Typically, a vehicle reaches its sales peak in the second or third year of a new design, then sales fall. Depending on the automaker, a major sheet metal redo usually is done every five or six years, and the sales pattern is repeated. By contrast, the Escape -- along with its cousins the Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute -- has looked pretty much the same since 2000. Of course, the Mercury and Mazda models are now deceased.

So what accounts for the sales triumph? I asked Tracy Handler, an analyst at IHS Automotive. She offers three reasons:

• First, the styling is unique which makes the Escape stand out from the crowd. "It will be interesting to see how the next one fares as it moves to the more rounded styling like the CR-V," Handler says. The redesigned 2013 model goes on sale early next year.

• Second, "I think Escape has benefited from all the good news and advertising for the brand with new products like the Focus, Explorer, getting people in the door," she says.

• Finally, Ford has boosted Escape incentives. "I don't think Focus has done as well [as expected] and think some of that is pricing and the deals you can get on a Fusion or Escape," Handler says.

Simply, the Focus is drawing people to the dealership, but some buyers are finding a better deal with the Escape.

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