Ford Division in late summer will begin marketing its 2001 Ford Escape in the United States - the first of 150 worldwide markets in which the new small sport-utility will be sold.
The Escape, unveiled Tuesday, Jan. 11, at the Detroit auto show, is the sixth sport-utility in Ford's U.S. portfolio.
Ford expects to sell 100,000 Escapes annually in the United States. An estimated 70 percent of Escape buyers will migrate from cars to the new sport-utility, Ford said. Target buyers are young couples, young families and those 'young at heart,' Ford said.
The five-passenger, four-door Escape will compete against the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4 in an expanding small sport-utility market.
'The end of the decade saw the surge in small sport-utility sales, which will continue into the next decade,' said Jim O'Connor, Ford Division president. In the United States, sales in the segment doubled from 1995 to 1999 to more than 500,000 units annually.
MAZDA GETS COMPANION
Mazda will begin selling a companion version of the sport-utility, called the Mazda Tribute, in July. The Mazda-engineered Tribute and Escape, with unibody design, are based loosely on the Mazda 626 platform, although Ford characterizes the chassis as new.
J.C. Collins, Ford Division multipurpose vehicle group brand manager, said, 'We will have derivatives. Stay tuned.'
The two vehicles share powertrains. Exterior sheet metal is distinct except for the roof panel, Ford said. The interiors are unique.
Ford will build 250,000 Escape and Tribute left-hand-drive units annually at its Kansas City, Mo., assembly plant. In addition, 50,000 right-hand-drive units will be built only in Hofu, Japan.
The Escape will be sold in Europe as a smaller-volume, niche vehicle by early 2001. Worldwide vehicle allocation between Ford and Mazda will depend on sales, although Ford will receive most of the production volume, O'Connor said.
The Escape will be sold in front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions. The standard powerplant is a 2.0-liter, dual overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine paired only with a five-speed manual transaxle. A 3.0-liter V-6 teamed with a four-speed automatic transmission is optional. No other powertrain configurations are available. The V-6 powered Escape has a towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.
Ford is promoting the Escape's interior roominess and innovative features, such as a movable roof rack that pulls down for easy loading of skis or bikes.
Ford would not disclose the price.
The Escape and the Tribute will not collide in the market, said Stu Smith, the Escape brand manager. 'It tells you it's a Ford by its design,' Smith said. The Tribute is aimed at import owners. The Escape will be marketed as one of a family of Ford sport-utilities under the 'No Boundaries' advertising campaign, Ford said.
'We think this will be a conquest vehicle and bring in incremental business,' Collins said.
The Escape will be offered in XLS and XLT versions. Antilock brakes are standard on XLT models and optional on XLS units. The Tribute will be available in DX, LX and ES trim levels.