Automotive News reports that Ford´s Eco-Sport soft-roader/crossover has not been a success in the European market. Is it an example of world cars only selling in parts of the world?
The Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and the Opel Mokka all sold remarkably better than the Eco-Sport. How well? For every eco-sporty vehicle Ford sold, Renault sold 13 and a bit Capturs. Additionally, Peugeot sold 11 of their chrome-laden machines and even more additionally, Opel shifted 10 Mokkas for every Ford that drove off the dealer´s yard. That means for each little Ford softroader sold, 34 of the competitors’ cars found happy customers. How this happened is put down to the Ecosport being designed for the Indian and Brazilian markets where more chunky-looking vehicles are preferred. The biggest sign of this chunkiness is the huge, externally mounted spare wheel. That will be made a no-cost option in the near future. The interior will Fiesta-ised on the grounds that this is what customers like in this segment (and the Renault and Peugeot use their respective superminis’ interiors pretty much unchanged).
This little episode reminds me of the CDW27, or 1992 Mk1 Ford Mondeo which replaced several vehicles in the Ford empire. Most notably in the US it replaced the Mercury Topaz and Ford Tempo. The Mercury Mystique and Ford Contour were rejected by the market for their cramped rear accommodation. Honda´s Accord, until the recent past, was sold in EU, US and Japanese widths but eventually one width won out (the non-Euro version). I presume I could use some of the finite remaining minutes of my life to determine if there is a correlation between the demise of the EU-only Accord and the introduction of the one-size-is-supposed-to-fit-all architecture of the current car (which I rather like). I guess there is.
Is the world car a zero sum game? Is it possible that in gaining sales in the BRIC countries Ford lost Europe and that in winning Europe Ford would lose the BRICs? Some cars seem to “go world” without a bother. The BMW 3 and VW Golf are ubiquitous. The Golf is the most popular car in the Antarctic. Opel tweak their Astra quite a bit for local conditions and this strategy seems to work. So, for some firms, it pays to be very global and other firms localise their designs a good bit. The answer to the world car question is that there is no single answer. I´d guess the that more niche the product is the more likely it is to be market sensitive. The Golf is, as we all know, the median car so it can sell in good numbers in most places without much adjustment. The Ecosport (the name is odd, no?) seems to be a vehicle from a segment where local tastes and fashions differ quite a bit. I think we can say that the world car might be a very special segment and it´s a mistake to think it’s the norm. If you take a look at Wikipedia´s insight on the topic you find examples are not thick on the ground. Most cars that we call world cars are usually adjusted to suit local tastes (what about the 911?). The Corolla springs to mind. And the Toyota Camry has been geared to suit American´s preferences and has disappeared from this beautiful continent due to lack of interest. World car? Illusion.