World Cars: Ford Eco-Sport

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?

Too chunky for us. 2014 Ford Eco-sport.
Too chunky for us. 2014 Ford Eco-sport.

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).

Good colour but not ladylike enough. 2014 Ford Ecosport in export guise.
Good colour but not ladylike enough. 2014 Ford Ecosport in export guise.

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.

1990 Mercury Topaz two-door.
1990 Mercury Topaz two-door.

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.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

58 thoughts on “World Cars: Ford Eco-Sport”

  1. There are certain similarities to the current Nissan Micra. Both are ‘world cars’ and both failed to get appreciated by the European market. Are our standards as high as some claim (hence the drubbing both those cars received at the hands of the European press), or are these models simply not made for us?

  2. Prejudices are strange. Generally I respect Ford and, although I don’t enjoy their current styling direction, I still consider their cars good at heart. This falls in a trough – it’s not very butch or very svelte or very zany. But more than this I just don’t think of Ford as offroad people – Ford Bronco and Fordson tractor notwithstanding. There’s no decent reason for this, I have the same prejudice about Opel. I only offer this subjective and uninformed piece of bigotry on the offchance that it is shared with a large proportion of the European buying public. That said, I’d certainly take the Eco-Sport (maybe the name is another problem) over the Captur (whose popularity I can’t understand at all) any day.

  3. Perplexingly, the Mokka seems to be doing rather well in Europe, despite being of Korean origin – and in distinct contrast to that other opelified Daewoo-Chevrolet, the Antara (whose name I had to look up). Could it be that GM have finally mastered that obscure art that had eluded them for so many decades – sensible platform sharing?

  4. I just saw on another website that this rubbish car will get some interior trim updates and the rear spare wheel will become optional. And Ford thinks that will help the dismal sales of this thing? People can see rubbish a mile off thankfully.

    http://www.carscoops.com/2015/01/updated-ford-ecosport-for-europe.html

    By the way how did Ford get away with that spare wheel and NOT having repeater lights below it? I thought legislation had it that both rear lights have to be visible at all times from any angle hence the first Discovery and cars like that got the lights moved to be below the spare (when fitted). On the pics above it is clear that only one rear light is visible from those angles…

  5. Could it simply be that Ford is only supplying European dealers with limited volumes to sell?

  6. Is the Golf really a world car? I always felt that its sales were lacking in the US (where the Jetta sells quite well instead).
    That would lead me to my point: Could it be that the only way a “world car” works is if the brand is conceived to be “premium”?
    To my knowledge, Audi, Bmw, Mercedes, Jaguar, Maserati… offer the same cars all over the world.

  7. My sense is that there is something in the argument that dealer supply has been restricted. I can’t remember seeing an advert for the EcoSport for ages (ever?) which suggests that Ford aren’t that fussed. It’s also possible that they’s rather sell a Kuga, which has a higher margin and is out-selling the GM, PSA and Renault alterntives, if not those from VAG, Nissan, Honda … Agree with Daniel’s comment – cars designed to be premium stand a better chance of global success; mainstream cars designed to be global seem doomed to fail.

  8. they’d – and Ford isn’t not aren’t – sorry, writing this when I should be doing something else.

  9. I remember having the same discussion on TWBCM website three or so years ago regarding why I had never seen an …um …. Antara (thanks Kris). It seemed that GM just needed to tick the boxes in order to be seen to offer a car in that sector, rather than actually sell them.

  10. About Daniel´s point: from a very strict perspective, the Jetta is a different car but from an engineering and investment point of view it´s a Golf with a boot and that´s easy to do. You could say it´s a localised Golf. They sold 10,000 Jettas in 2014 (according to the WSJ) which, I suppose, is not so many. Indeed, you may found the main flaw in the world car argument. Mainstream commodity cars are not good candidates unless localised like the Corolla/Auris is.

  11. I think people easily forget things like the extent of a dealers’ network and what is made available to them when discussing sales figures, and instead assume that demand is everything nowadays. The fact that this vehicle is assembled in Brazil, India, Thailand and possibly Russia (according to the good people at Wikipedia) to me partly proves that supplying western markets is not a priority. In comparison the Kuga is produced in Germany and Spain as well as China and Russia.

    1. Škoda’s Kvasiny plant can only churn I think something like 7,000 cars a month. Full stop. That’s it. So regardless of all the awards the Yeti has won and how many punters there are that want them, they have never produced more than about 5,500 a month. The balance is for the Roomster and Superb made in the same factory. Since the Superb is soon on a run out and people are less interested buying one, and the Roomster has always been a bit limited in demand, Yeti production has gone up to take up the Superb slack. But this severely limited supply means there is still (and have always been) a waiting list for a Yeti. I waited 7 months for mine and most people now wait about 2 to 3 months. Dealers in the Škoda network also have a specific number allocated to them based on previous sales. If they only have an allowance to sell 10 Yetis that month and the 11th customer comes in, that customer will wait 3 months instead of the 10th guy that will wait 2 months as anything after the 11th customer goes to the next allocation… not exactly rocket science all this. So the Yeti looks far less popular than the KIA Sportage for example, if you look at pure sales numbers, but Škoda sell every single one they can make, as fast as they can make them. They are hamstrung by a factory that is too small. This awful Ford might be in the same boat. But I suspect the demand for that thing is not remotely in the same league as that for a Yeti. So to say the Ford is a flop by just looking at sales figures does not always tell the full story.

  12. I never considered that point though perhaps Ford or the original journo might have made that clearer. I got the impression that if they had faced demand of 50,000 units they´d have provided them. 7000 units a month is 84000 units a year. I doubt that Ford are so hamstrung as to only be able to make 12,000 units annually. I expect they´d figure on at least 75,000 a year over six years.

    1. Production capacity is necessarily limited, although it seems strange in the case of Skoda that they didn’t look at ways to increase production. That said it’s a good way of keeping prices high instead of offering discounts.

      In the case of Ford the Eco-sport was clearly designed with developing markets in mind, so that’s where the supply has to go, particularly if it is key to establishing or consolidating a position in growing markets.

    2. I was surprised when I enquired (seriously) about a Yeti a couple of months ago how long I’d have to wait. This explains it and, although they probably lost fickle little me as a customer, in principle it’s a good idea. The problem with upping capacity is that, although it seems silly to turn down punters, as the model gets older, demand lapses, then you’re left with a part empty factory and workforce lay-offs. Also, as Laurent suggests, you’re not getting rid of them at break-even prices.

  13. I understand that it’s right to balance supply and demand and harder to earn money than lose it. Why didn’t Ford bluntly say “We planned to sell 10,000 and we sold 11,000 and made money on every one sold.”?

  14. I’ve come across a TV advert praising the Eco-Sport on German television. It seems Ford actually do try and sell it to the European public after all.

  15. There are 90 ‘used’ Ecosports for sale on Autotrader. They have mostly done under 5,000 miles, so either they are ex-demo, or punters tire of them quickly. I don’t really like the interior either so, although if a rental one was offered I’d still take it over a Captur, rightly or wrongly assuming it was the better dynamic choice, I would never think of putting my own money into one.

    1. Erm you are wrong there alas. Every single test says this is NOT the best dynamic choice as it is not remotely as good to drive as ANY other Ford out there. It is not even as good to drive as the competition – so you can just picture what a terrible drive it must be vis-a-[accent] vis a Fiesta.
      [Comment edited by Richard to correct spelling.]

    2. Well I did say ‘rightly or wrongly’, and it’s obviously the latter. So poor old Ford. The one thing you always thought you could rely on modern Fords to be was well behaved on the road.

    3. I think that is one of the biggest reasons most journalists and it seems potential buyers are let down by with this car. They expect it to fit within the European Ford stable on all levels (handling and interior especially) but it just doesn’t – since it was designed for third world countries with a budget to fit a market price in those countries.

    4. Though Johann, I don’t quite get why you’re so against the Ecosport. Apart from the dumpy looks, the clumsy interior, the stupid name and the bad road manners, it seems a pretty good buy to me.

    5. Yup I agree. For about £5,999 all in, I’d buy one too. But for the money they do want?! hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

    6. @ Richard

      Sorry but I have to object to your correcting another contributor’s comment.
      It’s bad form and my point was for education only.

    7. LOL re the correction which I only saw now… As an aside: I tried in vain logging into Dropbox the other day in Istanbul whilst there for work. Dropbox kept telling me that my domain name for my work email address was wrong. The more I read it and the more I checked it, the more I didn’t get it. It looked 100% correct. Until someone said to me the i on a Turkish keyboard is in fact an î and they might LOOK the same but they are not… So as to bothering finding the à… nah. 🙂

    8. Nah, I know the ASCII codes for most and just touch type as normal for ê, ô, ò, Š, €, etc… You just hold the ALT key in and type 0138 for example for Škoda. So coupé is just type “coup ALT+130” and you have coupé. No cut and pasting required. But yes for silly hardly ever used things like à, cut and paste is the way forward.

    9. You lost me there (does that work on every platform like e.g. here?) although I should definitely learn how to enter the most commonly used accents in French. I’ll look into it one day.

    10. Not interested in Mac. Just trying to figure out why when I press ALT and the code nothing happens.

    11. AH… can’t help there. Doing thus worked on every PC I’ve had since my first one I bought in 1993.

    12. Laurent. Use the number keys on the right of your keyboard, not above. When you release the Alt key it should appear. Unfortunately I lack Johann’s memory for the various characters, hence the lack of accents in my typing!

    13. Ah yes… I failed to say that then I guess. It is the numbers on the right you use. 🙂

    14. Ah, I need to find out how it works on a laptop with with no numbers pad then.
      Johann made it sound like it was simple…

    15. Took me 2 minutes to find the answer on Google (I’m not THAT useless), but none of the codes I found seem to give me the letters I’m after.

  16. Doesn´t this car remind you in concept of the Vauxhall Sintra which was a rebadged Chevrolet. And there was the Ford Maverick which was on sale from ´02 to ´07. Nobody went for that car. And yet, the cheapest one I could find was €2000 with 171,000 km on the clock. That´s another candidate for unforgetting!

    1. The Sintra was woefully bad. It’s appalling crash test performance not only resulted in the Sintra being withdrawn from the German market, but also had the effect of seriously tainting Opel’s image as some kind of collateral damage.

    2. Generally, I think badly of a manufacturer who sees a sector they think they should be in, then looks around for the cheapest convenient existing vehicle to stick their badge on to.

  17. Isn´t the Cygnet in a special class, one rung below the Cimarron which is one rung below the Lincoln Versailles. Or is the Cygnet sharing a space in the circle of hell with the Van Den Plas Allegro? Discuss. I see the Ecosport as being in a class of unreformed transplants: Cadillac Seville (circa 1997), Vauxhall Sintra, Merkur X4Ti (nee Sierra) and Merkur Scorpio. My pad lacks accents, Sam, sorry!

  18. Sam: Objection noted but over-ruled on the basis the amendment is noted and signed. I gave thought to this and a) I haven’t changed the meaning or intent of the message and b) your comment about the spelling still exists to indicate what the error was.

    1. Still, a) it looks silly and b) it’s Johann’s business, not yours/DTW’s – unlike the articles.

  19. The world car therefore seems to be badge specific?
    If it’s a premiuim German brand buyers are prepared to tolerate some compromises but for the other manufacturers it has to meet my local needs or I’m walking away.

    1. Or badge sensitive? It’s a good question as to why customers accept a 3 and A4’s foibles but not a Ford or GM. And note, Toyota don’t bother with world cars – there is a lot of regional variation (which I have to check now!)

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