Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) is about to bring its smallest SUV to the United States. As first reported by Automotive News, the Blue Oval has confirmed that a U.S.-bound version of the 2017 Ford EcoSport will be unveiled in Los Angeles on Monday.
What is the Ford EcoSport?
The EcoSport is a small crossover SUV built on Ford's global "B" architecture. That architecture is shared with the Fiesta, which should give you an idea of the EcoSport's size. (It's a little bigger than a Fiesta.) While it will be new to the U.S., the EcoSport isn't an all-new product.
The current EcoSport is part of Ford's global product portfolio and has been sold in many other parts of the world since its launch late in 2012 as a 2013 model. It was originally developed as a simple and inexpensive SUV for emerging markets. Ford sells a lot of them: The EcoSport is currently built in China, Brazil, Russia, India, Vietnam, and Thailand.
A more upscale version of the EcoSport was subsequently developed for Europe and launched last year to compete with popular premium small SUVs like General Motors' (NYSE:GM) Opel Mokka. That's probably the version that will serve as the basis of the U.S. model, and it will probably have the Mokka's U.S. sibling -- the hot-selling Buick Encore -- in its sights.
In Europe, the EcoSport is available with three different engines, including a diesel. It's likely that the U.S. model will be offered with some or all of these gasoline engines: a 1.6-liter four-cylinder making 120 horsepower, a 1.0-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost turbo making 123 horsepower, or a 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 160 horsepower.
The European EcoSport is available in upscale trims, including "Titanium" and "Titanium Sport" models. Expect the U.S. model's trim lines to follow the pattern of the Fiesta and Focus, with two or three versions -- including an upscale model -- available.
The U.S.-market EcoSport probably won't be built in the U.S., as most of Ford's U.S. factories are already running near full capacity. It might be built in Mexico, possibly alongside current U.S.-bound Fiestas at Ford's Cuautitlan Stamping and Assembly plant in Cuautitlan Izcalli, Mexico. Also possible: Ford may choose to import U.S.-market EcoSports from its vast manufacturing facility in Thailand.
Why is the EcoSport coming to the U.S.?
Let's put it this way: Here are the key competitors in the subcompact SUV segment in the U.S. Note that most have had big sales increases this year.
So to answer the question: Ford wants a piece of that fast-growing action. Since the EcoSport already exists, entering the U.S. small-SUV fray is a (relatively) inexpensive proposition for the Blue Oval -- and the profit potential is quite high.
What will the new Ford EcoSport cost?
We don't know yet. Ford may tell us on Monday, or it may wait until closer to the EcoSport's launch. My educated guess is that the U.S. EcoSport's starting price will be right around $20,000, with a "Titanium" version starting around $26,000. You'll probably be able to get a well-equipped-but-not-lavish EcoSport for around $24,000, maybe a little less.
When will the EcoSport go on sale in the U.S.?
Again, we don't know yet, though Ford will almost certainly give us an idea on Monday. The timing of the EcoSport's U.S. launch probably depends on where Ford plans to build it.
If the answer is Mexico, it might take a while: Ford is in the process of a massive expansion of its Mexican manufacturing facilities, with an all-new assembly plant under construction in San Luis Potosi and a major expansion of the Cuautitlan plant underway now.
If the answer is Thailand, the EcoSport could arrive at U.S. dealers much sooner.