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It's no secret that SUVs have been a big part of Ford's (NYSE: F ) business for a long time.
Even now, in an era of higher gas prices and tougher fuel-economy rules, Ford's greener, revamped SUVs like the Escape and Explorer are well-regarded entries that post great sales month after month.
But there's one hot Ford SUV that you probably don't know about, at least if you live in the U.S. That's because it's not sold here -- at least not yet -- but it is turning into a surprise hit in more and more overseas markets.
Meet the Ford EcoSport
This is the Ford EcoSport, the company's smallest SUV. In its latest incarnation -- the current EcoSport is an all-new model -- it's officially part of Ford's global product portfolio, and it is being added to Ford's lineup in markets around the world.
By American standards, the EcoSport is tiny -- just 3,999 millimeters long without its spare tire, or about 157 inches. That's more than 20 inches shorter than the Escape. (The EcoSport's metric length is no accident. In India, vehicles over 4 meters long face stiffer taxes.) It's built on Ford's global "B-car" platform, which also underpins the Fiesta -- that should give you another idea of the EcoSport's size.
That small size makes the EcoSport both affordable and fuel-efficient. And the fact that it's an SUV makes it rugged and – given its tiny overall dimensions – surprisingly roomy.
Combine that with Ford's recent penchant for high-quality interiors and appealing options, and it's a package that has turned out to be a winning formula in several big markets around the world.
Catching on in China and India
Ford launched the new EcoSport in China at the end of March, and through May had already sold about 14,000 of the little SUVs. That success looks set to be repeated in India, where the aggressively priced EcoSport was launched earlier this week to rave reviews.
India is a market that has frustrated Ford, as the company's relatively premium offerings haven't played well with value-focused Indian customers. But early signs suggest that the EcoSport, which is being made locally on a new Ford production line in Chennai, is well positioned to become a leader in India's hottest market segment -- small SUVs.
Ford currently makes the EcoSport in Brazil, as well as in China and India, and is expected to add production in Russia and Thailand as well. Although Ford has so far targeted emerging markets, the company has bigger ambitions for its little SUV: The EcoSport will join Ford's European lineup later this year.
But will it come here?
Officially, there are no plans to bring Ford's littlest SUV to the United States. But if it's successful in Europe, it's not impossible that Ford's littlest off-roader will make its way to American shores in time. Stay tuned.
The EcoSport is just the latest hot product to add to Ford's growth streak in China's booming auto market. A recent Motley Fool report, "2 Automakers to Buy for a Surging Chinese Market," says that Ford is one of two global giants poised to reap big gains in China in coming years. You can read this report right now for free – just click here for instant access.