LOS ANGELES — (WWJ) Ford is moving its Escape small SUV more upscale, and making the vehicle more stylish.
In addition to a less boxy design, the new escape adds more cargo volume and more technology. That includes the first use of a “hands-free power liftgate.” It has a sensor under the bumper, which allows drivers to open the liftgate with a move of their foot.
The Escape is now Ford’s best selling SUV. Small Sport Utilities have now become one of the most competitive categories.
“I think that’s generally the movement in the North American market to more fuel efficient vehicles, more package efficient vehicles,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president, Global Product Development. “It’s in the utility market. It’s on the car side also.”
Kuzak says small SUV’s have, in the last decade, grown from 25 per cent of the utility market, to over 40 per cent.
Depending on the trim, the new Escape will improve fuel economy by five miles per gallon. In addition to the traditional four cylinder engine, buyers will have a choice of either a 1.6 or 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine.
Ford expects most buyers of the new Escape to want one of the EcoBoost engines.
The new Escape will go on the market in the U.S. in 2012. It will be built at Ford’s Louisville Assembly Plant, which is currently undergoing a complete makeover.
In China and Europe, the vehicle is called the Ford Kuga.