Ford (NYSE:F) unveiled its Edge Concept, a mid-sized crossover SUV, at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Wednesday. Officially, it's just a "concept." That means that -- officially -- Ford has no plans to mass produce it.
But Ford did say that the Edge Concept "offers strong hints at the technology, dynamic design and premium craftsmanship that will define the company's next global utility vehicles."
Translation: They might change some details before it goes into production, but for the most part, you're looking at the all-new 2016 Ford Edge that will arrive at Ford dealers in 2015.
Let's take a closer look.
Under the hood of the next-generation Edge
The Edge Concept clearly isn't a radical departure for Ford. Its general shape and trim looks a lot like the current 2014 Edge, though it gets narrower headlights, and a grill more in keeping with Ford's current global look.
Ford didn't give any specifics on the Edge Concept's powertrain, except to hint at a "next-generation EcoBoost engine" that will incorporate stop-start technology and other fuel-saving features. The Edge Concept has active grill shutters and other features to make it more aerodynamically efficient, reducing the amount of power it will need at highway speeds.
Inside, the Edge Concept's interior follows recent Ford styling themes, with soft-touch materials offering a premium feel. And, like other recent Fords such as the Fusion, the Edge Concept is loaded with high-tech features more often associated with luxury cars.
For instance, the Edge Concept features Ford's Fully Assisted Parking Aid, a system that automatically pulls the vehicle into a tight parking space for you -- even if you've already gotten out of the car. The sensors in that system are part of Ford's long-term plan for self-driving cars, the company said, and they are likely to be used to offer other advanced driver aids, as well.
Of course, the Edge Concept is a show car, so features like the parking system may not necessarily make it to production. But they show Ford's current thinking -- and it's a safe bet that advanced features like the parking system will be offered on the new Edge in 2015.
The latest new Ford with global aspirations
Ford executives emphasized on Wednesday that the new Edge is a "global" product, noting that SUV sales in China, South America, and Europe are all expected to grow significantly in coming years.
That's important. The current Edge was designed for the North American market, and it's built in just one factory, in Ontario. Ford does export the current Edge to some of its overseas markets, including China and Europe, but only in small numbers.
The new model will change that. Like nearly all Fords now, the next Edge will be a global model, and Ford is probably planning to build it in several factories around the world. I suspect that China looms large in Ford's plans for the next Edge: SUV sales in China have surged over the last couple of years, and they're expected to more than double between 2012 and 2017, according to IHS Automotive figures cited by Ford.
Ford already builds a version of the Escape (called the Kuga) in China. It's offered alongside imported Edges (and Explorers), but imported vehicles come with high tariffs in China. Ford's locally built vehicles have seen big sales growth over the last couple of years; the brand seems to have hit a "sweet spot" with Chinese car buyers.
What all this means is that Ford has an opportunity to put up some big sales numbers with the Edge in China. To make the most of that opportunity, it needs an Edge that is designed from the ground up to be built and sold all over the world.
The Edge Concept shows us that it's coming -- and it's coming in a package that should do pretty well here in the U.S., too.