Ford Motor Co is looking at ways to expand its sport utility vehicle (SUV) portfolio, with SUVs set to grow to 40% of the US light vehicle market by 2020 from about a third today, said global sales chief Stephen Odell.
"As a segment gets that big, it's probably going to fragment into different requirements," said Odell in an interview ahead of the unveiling on Tuesday in Los Angeles of the 2017 Ford Escape, a re-styled version of the company's bestselling SUV model in the United States.
Ford sells a smaller SUV called the EcoSport in Europe, Latin America and India, and has studied it for the US market, said Odell. "It could at some point become a substantial part of the industry," he said.
Separately, United Auto Workers union officials and analysts said they expect Ford to use a factory in Wayne, Michigan, to build a new SUV and a new pickup truck after production of the Ford Focus compact car is moved to Mexico in 2018.
Sales of the current Escape in the US should beat last year's record of 306,212 vehicles, said Odell. But Escape sales are rising at a slower pace than several competitors, up just 1% for the year to date compared with 15% for Toyota Motor Corp's RAV4 and 41% for Nissan Motor Co's Rogue.
The intense competition Ford faces is reflected in decisions the company made as it revised the 2017 Escape, which goes on sale next year.
"We think we've got more than enough safety technology on this product that's relevant to the drivers they would be prepared to pay for," said Odell. Vehicles in the Escape's class have starting prices just under $24,000, and Japanese and European competitors currently have cheaper currencies to offset the cost of new features.
Ford India sold 20,420 vehicles in combined domestic wholesales and exports in October, compared to 11,630 vehicles in the corresponding month last year, thus witnessing a jump of 76%, said the company in a statement.
October domestic wholesales rose 49% to 10,008 vehicles against 6,723 units in the same month last year, while exports more than doubled to 10,412 vehicles compared to 4,907 units in October 2014.
"These are exciting times for Ford and our customers in India. With three new products â€” Figo Aspire, new Figo and new EcoSport â€” we have ensured that our customers have a cracker of a Diwali," said Anurag Mehrotra, executive director, Marketing, Sales and Service, at Ford India.