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Ford Escape PHEV delayed until late 2021

Ford Australia pushes back Escape PHEV launch to late 2021 after Euro recalls

29 Oct 2020

FORD Australia officially launched its all-new Escape medium SUV this week however the highly anticipated PHEV variants have not been included in the current line-up and are not expected to reach Aussie showrooms until late next year.


According to local executives, the delay stems from the ongoing recall and subsequent production halt of the European-spec Kuga PHEV – as it is called overseas – following the revelation the battery pack could be prone to overheating and sparking a vehicle fire.


“We are currently experiencing some supply issues with the Escape PHEV and while timing is not yet confirmed, we do anticipate it will be late 2021 before it arrives in Australia and New Zealand,” Ford Australia and New Zealand communications director Matt Moran said.


“I can confirm the Australian and New Zealand vehicles have not yet been built, so they are not impacted.”


Despite the vehicles having not yet been built, Mr Moran was hesitant when pressed for confirmation that the Australia-bound Escape PHEVs would be free of the faults plaguing the European examples which according to overseas reports has been traced back to one of the battery pack’s control modules.


In a video posted to YouTube earlier this month, Ford Germany, Austria and Switzerland marketing and sales managing director Hans Jörg Klein implored European owners to not charge or drive their vehicles in full-electric mode with seven new Kuga PHEVs having caught fire while charging.


33,400 vehicles have been recalled to date while customers in continental Europe have reportedly been gifted a €500 (A$832) fuel voucher.


According to global Escape/Kuga vehicle line chief program engineer James Hughes, a series of announcements detailing the fault and the current recall/production status is due imminently from Ford Europe.


“I’m anticipating within very few days from now, likely by the end of this week or early next week, there will be some announcements that will come from Ford of Europe that will clarify the current statutes and will also provide the projections of the supplier quality improvements that we’re making to mitigate the current situation,” he said.


“We’ll have some public announcements quite soon.”


Mr Moran added that Ford Australia would be continuing to work with its global counterparts regarding production and local supply.


Built in the same Valencia production plant as the regular Escapes, the PHEVs are powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle petrol engine paired with an electric motor and generator which draw power from a 14.4kWh lithium-ion battery.


Combined maximum power is rated at 167kW with claimed combined fuel consumption pegged at just 1.5 litres per 100km.


At this stage Ford Australia has only earmarked a single PHEV variant for a local introduction, that being the sports-oriented ST-Line PHEV which was set to carry a sticker price of $52,940 before on-road costs.


As for the rest of the range, three trim levels are on offer – Escape, ST-Line and Vignale – all of which are motivated by an updated version of the brand’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder ‘EcoBoost’ petrol engine, now good for 183kW/387Nm.


Drive is sent to either the front or all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.


Standard equipment on the $35,990 entry-level variant includes the FordPass Connect embedded modem with FordPass App compatibility, push-button start, wireless smartphone charging, DAB+ radio, Sync 3 multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, voice-recognition, sat-nav with Traffic Management System, 8.0-inch full-colour touchscreen, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, duel exhaust tips, 18-inch wheels and power windows.


Adding lowered sports suspension and the option of all-wheel-drive to the mix is the $37,990 ST-Line ($40,990 for the AWD) which also adds a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel with red stitching, paddle shifters, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and metallic pedals.


The sports-oriented model can be singled out by its unique gun-metal grey 18-inch alloy wheels, lower ride height, sports body kit, bigger rear spoiler and black accents inside and out.


Given the Escape is underpinned by the same C2 platform as the current Focus, questions were raised at the national media launch as to if a fully-fledged ST performance version was on the cards, something Mr Hughes described as a “fantastic idea”.


“I would say that yes we do have outstanding legacy and a really good foundation with the Focus ST and we’re always evaluating further derivative opportunities, but I really can’t comment on future products,” he said.


Fittingly at the top of the Escape range, the flagship Vignale ($46,590 FWD, $49,590 AWD) adds advanced keyless entry, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather accented seating, 10-way power-adjustable heated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, panoramic sunroof, head-up display, hands-free power tailgate, 10-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system, 180-degree reversing camera and advanced automated park assist all as standard.


The Vignale distinguishes itself from its siblings by way of its unique chrome front fascia, rear diffuser and unique 19-inch alloy wheels while the eagle-eyed will also spot its glare-free Matrix LED headlights.


Range-wide safety measures meanwhile consist of autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, evasive steering assist, forward collision warning, dynamic brake support, traffic sign recognition, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, driver impairment monitor, tyre pressure monitor, emergency assistance and cruise control with adjustable speed limiter.


Ford Australia has sold 1118 Escapes so far this year – 58 per cent less than the same period last year – accounting for a slim 1.0 per cent of the sub-$60,000 medium SUV segment.

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