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Ford to kill Escape V6

Nip and tuck: The new-look Escape at the Tokyo motor show.

Ford to drop V6 as Escape gets another facelift and Blue Oval predicts market go-slow

17 Mar 2008

FORD Australia is about to reveal yet another facelift for its unloved Escape SUV, and the biggest news is that it will no longer be available with V6 power.

Due to be officially revealed within a week ahead of its Australian public debut at the Adelaide motor show on April 1, the updated Escape wagon will look much like the Adventure Concept that Ford unveiled at the Tokyo motor show last October.

As we revealed at the time, Australia’s current ZC Escape will receive the same cosmetic changes as the Adventure show car, including new front-end styling comprising redesigned headlights, grille, bumpers and bonnet, plus new tail-lights, rear-view mirrors and interior trim changes.

The Adventure Concept was the work of Australian Paul Gibson, who is now chief designer for Ford Asia-Pacific and Africa.

While the Escape’s 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine will continue, Ford will axe 3.0-litre V6 versions from the line-up. The official line is that Ford will focus on fuel economy, but with V6 versions representing a small percentage of total Escape sales and the popularity of Territory waning, it’s a move that will remove both the least profitable Escape variant and a potential rival for Ford’ own Territory.

The revised Escape, which traces its roots back to the original BA-series Escape launched here in February 2001, will go on sale immediately after its Adelaide show reveal in April.

After minor alterations with the ZA in April 2003, the Escape received a new four-cylinder engine option and some trim upgrades when the ZB update arrived in early 2004, before Ford introduced the Taiwan-built ZC two years later.

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“It will be a model realignment... Our goal is to drive sales by a simplified offering and focus customers on fuel economy,” said Ford president Bill Osborne at his first monthly sales briefing with media last Thursday, when the Blue Oval’s new local boss also predicted the overall Australian car market would soften in the second half of 2008.

Ford has revised down its official 2008 market forecast to 1,040,000, which remains up on last year’s record result but less than previously predicted by Ford, which expects rising interest rates to take their toll on the new-car market by mid-2008.

“We’re anticipating that the central bank’s efforts to lower inflation and the rising interest rate environment will likely put some dampener on sales in the second half, but the underlying fundamentals of economic growth are still quite strong so we don’t see the industry completely tanking – not at all.

“What we’re expecting is a bit of a softening as a result of a rising interest rate environment, but with the strong number of competitors and strong product offerings and strong economic fundamentals underlying it, we don’t see any sort of any industry collapse.

“We’ll still see a fairly robust industry, albeit down from the record levels of today,” he said, adding that NSW and Victoria were currently driving most sales growth in Australia.

Mr Osborne suggested that, following the launch of the FG Falcon sedan and ute in May, Ford would explore new retail opportunities to arrest the recent sales slide by its Territory, which is expected to receive an FG-style cosmetic and mechanical facelift late this year.

“The medium SUV segment has grown significantly but we haven’t participated in that growth,” he said. “I obviously wish we had a fresh Territory and so we’ll examine how we’ll go to market with that for the rest of the year.”

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