NICK GIBBS

Does the Ford Edge have any chance in Europe?

Nick Gibbs is UK correspondent at Automotive News Europe.Nick Gibbs is UK correspondent at Automotive News Europe.
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Ford's confidence that it can sell decent numbers of the Mondeo-based Edge large SUV in Europe might be misplaced. A near-production concept of the next-generation Edge, which was revealed at the Los Angeles auto show last month, gives a strong hint as to the final vehicle Europe is going to see by 2017 -- and it certainly looks good.

But the fact is that large SUVs from mass-producers such as Ford do not sell well in Europe. Last year, sales of large SUVs fell 28 percent to 23,283 in a European market of 12.5 million, according to figures from JATO Dynamics.

By contrast sales in the medium SUV sector, where the Ford Kuga competes, rose 15 percent to 672,930 in Europe last year.

The Ford Edge Concept shows the automaker's vision for a crossover that it believes will be a global success.

At the L.A. show, Raj Nair, Ford's head of global product development, told me that the Edge's European sales were not going to be anything like they are in the United States, where the automaker sold 127,969 units last year.

But he's confident it won't be a flop either. He said that the Edge matches the Ford S-Max and Galaxy large minivans on practical capabilities that European car buyers want: luggage space and roominess.

Nair also believes that the Edge's looks, tech features such as obstacle avoidance and the quality interior will help Ford steal customers from premium equivalents.

One big problem is that while the U.S. Edge pulls in buyers attracted to the power of engines such as a 3.5-liter V-6 gasoline unit, the European car is likely to only offer a four-cylinder diesel. The minuscule market for hybrids in Europe means that adding a battery boost probably won't help either.

By the time the vehicle arrives, the European SUV market could have changed beyond recognition, which could benefit the Edge or boot it right back to the country it was born in.

You can reach Nick Gibbs at nick.gibbs@btinternet.com.

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