25 Apr 2014

Ford Escort To Return!

Hear ye, Hear ye! Ford enthusiasts across the length and breadth of the British Isles gather round to the ringing of glorious news to our ears. Wave the Union Flag and gather the Morris Men, for the legendary Ford Escort is back.

Indeed this is neither a misprint nor Doctor Who's automotive time-travelling report, the Escort nameplate will certainly be making a welcome return to the Ford line-up. Ford revealed a new model at the Beijing Motor Show last week that the new Escort will enter production shortly. "Hurrah!" commends the British motoring public, but all readers would be advised to take a seat, place all hot drinks on the table and prepare themselves for a bit of bad news.

The new Escort will not be coming to Britain. Ford states that the upcoming model is destined only for sale in the Chinese market, with design cues to suit the buyers of Beijing instead of Birmingham. For instance, readers of Mike Armstrong's recent post will be fully aware of the flat-lining demand for compact saloon cars in the British Isles, therefore news that the new model will be available as a four-door saloon would deter most would-be consumers in Blighty if it were to reach our showrooms.
Escort, Orion or Focus?
The Chinese market typically is a large consumer of small saloon cars, therefore Ford's choice to offer the new Escort in this body form will surely prove intelligent. Traditionalists will immediately notice a problem with this though, as typical Escort saloons were branded Orion until the last couple of years of production. Notably, the Mk1 and Mk2 Escort were available in saloon format too. Some would deem this a continuity error or patronising of the Chinese market's blissful unawareness of the car's history. Others would disagree with the notion of a continuity error, as Ford are simply picking up where they left off with the previous batch of Escort badged Orions.

Regardless of traditionalist views, the Chinese market Escort will share a chassis with the current Focus and borrows styling cues from other worldwide offerings. The front grill is stylistically similar to the current Fiesta, the headlights are inspired by the B-Max and some of the body akin to the Focus on which it is based. But is it simply a badge engineered Focus saloon? Apparently not, as the interior is reportedly downmarket to Ford's global offerings, according to some western journalists. Though Ford themselves hint the Escort to providing more upmarket appeal than the Focus currently on sale in China. Also, it appears that interior space may have been increased to cater to the market's expectations.
The last Escort available in the British Market, 1995-2000

"Even as the Ford Focus remains the best-selling nameplate in China, we recognize that many consumers in China are looking for something else in a compact car," said Luo Minggang, Executive President, Changan Ford Automobile. "The Ford Escort is the answer to the question of what these consumers really want and value in a car for themselves and their families." Presumably these values consist of more interior room for rear seat occupants and plenty of gadgetry; including MP3 compatibility and Bluetooth connectivity. Six airbags will also be standard in a bid to provide above average safety equipment for Chinese motorists.

Power will come from a 1.5-litre four-cylinder Ti-VCT petrol unit, supposedly providing smooth power delivery and high efficiency. No diesel variant has been announced, mainly due to the market's preference towards petrol powered units.

China is now recognised as the largest market for new car sales in the world, and Ford's recognition of this has encouraged a strategy to release 15 new blue oval vehicles to the market before 2015. Ford's global strategy of One Ford, which has seen the Mustang introduced to Europe and the Fiesta to the USA, has certainly echoed well in this instance. Despite the Escort name, the use of the global C-Car platform used in the current Focus, input from Australia's Asia Pacific design team and local efforts from the Ford Research and Engineering Center in Nanjing assure that not only are consumers in the Chinese markets catered for, but also costs are cut as successful knowledge and technology from a worldwide standpoint are utilised efficiently.

Is it truly an Escort though? Probably not, although this shall remain ambiguous for now. But equally a Mustang with an EcoBoost engine is a break from a similarly upheld tradition. However most can agree that Ford's latest offering is certainly demonstrating a trend towards superior market awareness to previous generations and shall be worthy of commendation.

By Mike (Saloon) Armstrong