Ford of Europe will add an SUV that is based on the European-market Focus.
Ford's new SUV will join models planned by Opel, Volkswagen, Renault, Peugeot and Citroen. Fiat launched its first SUV, the Sedici, this month.
All are chasing Toyota, which leads the medium-SUV segment in western Europe with its RAV4. Toyota sold 87,596 RAV4s last year, said market researcher JATO Dynamics in the United Kingdom.
European sales of small and medium-sized SUVs are expected to expand to 1,095,625 units by 2010 from 743,216 units last year, said Henner Lehne, an analyst at CSM Worldwide in Frankfurt.
Ford will show a concept for the SUV at the Paris auto show in September. It will be built at Ford's Saarlouis, Germany, factory, sources say. Saarlouis is the primary plant for the Focus.
Ford sells the Maverick SUV, a rebadged Ford Escape, in Europe. But the U.S.-built model does not offer a diesel. Ford sold just 670 units in January, JATO said.
Ford, like its European rivals, also wants to offer an SUV that drives more like a car than a truck.
Said analyst Lehne: "The vehicle is important for Ford because you have to be part of this game in Europe."
VW will build a Golf-based SUV in Wolfsburg and bring it to market in 2008. Opel, Renault and PSA plan to import SUVs from Asia. Opel's Antara will be built in Korea by GM Daewoo, a subsidiary of Opel parent, General Motors. It will go on sale in the fall.
Starting next year, Renault will import a Nissan X-Trail-based vehicle built by its Korean subsidiary Samsung. Also next year, PSA's Peugeot and Citroen brands will get SUVs based on the Mitsubishi Outlander.
A Ford official said Ford waited to develop a carlike SUV because it lacked the right technology. But he says the latest generation of lightweight, all-wheel-drive systems from Haldex Traction in Landskrona, Sweden, make such a vehicle feasible.
Jens Meiners contributed to this report
You may e-mail Bradford Wernle at [email protected]