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Exclusive: Ford heads for the Equator

E for Equator: Ford has submitted paperwork to trademark-protect the name Equator in a move that seems to open the door for an SUV of that name in Australia.

Ford’s Territory replacement shapes up as Equator as Edge name blocked


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2 Mar 2017

UPDATED: 6/03/2017FORD has applied for Australian automotive trademark registration for the name Equator after being told by Toyota Australia that it cannot share the name Edge for Ford’s Canadian-built Territory replacement.

Toyota Australia public affairs manager Beck Angel has confirmed to GoAuto that late last year the company knocked back Ford’s request to share the Toyota-held naming rights for Edge, which it reserves for special-edition RAV4s in Australia and New Zealand.

“After careful consideration, we have declined Ford’s request to use the ‘Edge’ trademark in these countries,” she said.

This means that Ford Australia is locked out from the global Edge badge on the large SUV that is due in Australia in 2018 to replace the locally built Territory that is run-out after local Ford production ceased last October.

Coincidentally or not, Ford Motor Company of Dearborn, Michigan, lodged an Australian trademark application for Equator on January 20, just a few weeks after Toyota delivered the bad news.

A spokesman for Ford Australia declined to comment on the application.

A clue to the purpose of the Equator name lies in its initial letter. Ford Australia president Graeme Whickman is on record as saying his company wants all of its SUV names to start with an E, as they do in the United States.

Obviously, for global consistency, he would have preferred the name Edge to be glued to the back of the large SUV, but with Toyota playing hardball on that name, Mr Whickman and his product planning team might be organising a fall-back position via the Equator.

Ford executives have not explicitly ruled out continuing with the Territory name for the SUV, but several have indicated that a clean break with the past is preferred.

Ford has used the Equator name at least twice in the past, on concept vehicles in 2000 and 2005.

Ford has a history of recycling vehicle names. For example, Everest – the badge of Ford’s Australian-developed, Ranger-based heavy 4x4 SUV – was used on two previous ute-based SUVs made and sold in Asia.

Only last week, Ford Australia brought back the Escape badge for its facelifted mid-sized SUV that previously went by the European name Kuga. Again, the name reflects Ford’s E-name policy for SUVs that also extends to North America where Ford also dishes up the Explorer and Expedition full-sized SUVs alongside Edge and Escape.

Although the application for Equator trademark registration was submitted only on January 20 – and is yet to be processed and approved – it is not the first time the name has figured in such a Ford application in Australia.

Back in 2005, an application was made by Ford to protect the Equator name around the same time as Ford showed a concept vehicle of that title at the Tokyo motor show.

Penned by Ford Australia designer Paul Gibson while based at Ford’s design studio in Taiwan, the Equator concept previewed the Taiwanese-built 2006 Escape that was twinned with Mazda’s Tribute.

Ford never proceeded with the Equator name on a production model, and the Australian trademark application was allowed to lapse.

Earlier, Ford showed an F-150 pick-up-based concept called Equator at the 2000 Detroit motor show. Again, the concept and the name disappeared without trace – until now.

The current Edge is built in both Canada and China on Ford’s CD4 front/all-wheel-drive mid/large car platform shared with the North American Fusion mid-sized sedan and its European counterpart, the Mondeo, as well as the Lincoln MKX and others.

The Canadian version of the second-generation Edge that was launched in late 2014 is only a five seater – at least for now – but Ford Australia has ruled out importing Edge from China where a seven-seater is available.

In North America, engines include two turbocharged four cylinders – a 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol and similar-sized Duratorq diesel – and two petrol V6s – a 2.7-litre EcoBoost and a 3.5-litre Duratec.

Like the ill-fated Territory that is still in run-out five months after production ended, the Edge – or Equator, perhaps – will go head to head with rivals such as Toyota’s Kluger, Nissan’s Pathfinder, Hyundai’s Santa Fe and Kia’ s Sorrento.

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