Ford (NYSE:F) gets a lot of credit these days for its incredible business turnaround, and rightfully so. But I don't believe the company receives enough credit in how it's succeeded in designing one vehicle hit after another. CEO Alan Mulally and his team's change in strategy included designing new cars with aggressive styling, more technology and safety features, and better fuel economy -- it's worked like a charm.
At this week's Los Angeles Auto Show, Ford unveiled its new Edge Concept, which will probably be very similar to the production Edge seen in 2015 as a 2016 model -- and I think it will set the model's record sales in the U.S. when it's launched. Here's why.
Looking at the interior, exterior, and technology offerings of the next-generation Edge, it's clear Ford is aiming to stuff as many premium features in the ride as consumers are willing to pay for -- a strategy that has paid off well for the company, as well as its satisfied consumers.
Starting with the exterior, Ford is sticking with its design theme similar to other recently redesigned models. It has an aggressive look with sleek lines, a three-bar grille, and sharp LED headlamps.
Under the hood Ford, hasn't released the exact specifications of the powertrain but has said it will include a next-generation EcoBoost engine, which has been a huge seller among similar models. Consider that Ford's Escape has a 89% take rate on the EcoBoost engine option. The new engine will have start-stop technology, and the Edge will also incorporate Active Grille Shutters to keep engine temperature and aerodynamics at optimal performance.
The interior of the Edge concept may be the most eye-catching, however, and Ford looks to have taken steps to fixing one of its largest problems.
"We wanted the interior to be consistent in its dynamic character with the exterior of the Ford Edge Concept," said Hak Soo Ha, interior design manager, in a Ford press release. "We call the interior environment Dynamic Sanctuary, because it combines the energetic character of the exterior with a more premium cabin execution. The shapes provide a dynamic, in-motion impression that soothes rather than fatigues."
The interior boasts a modern and luxurious look and feel with premium elements that include leather-wrapped and hand-stitched instrument panels, unique gear shifter and steering wheel, and an enormous 10-inch touch screen center display with MyFord Touch. The latter feature has plagued Ford in recent ratings because of its buggy performance, but the folks at the Blue Oval have taken steps to incorporate more buttons and knobs to improve consumer functionality.
While those insights just scratch the surface, the more you look into the Edge I think the clearer it becomes the next generation will set the model's record annual sales in the U.S. market. Even now the Edge is on pace for its second best year, as crossover sales continue to grow faster than the industry, and the next-generation should easily push it over the top.
Even more important than improving sales and revenues in the U.S., is Ford's focus to take all of its models onto the global stage. One of the key components for this is providing stylish models in hot segments with better fuel economy -- the Edge checks off all three of these factors.
According to IHS Automotive, global utility vehicle sales grew 45% between 2007 and 2012, and the segment now accounts for more than 13 million sales annually. Ford has also doubled down on its growth initiatives in China, the world's largest automotive market, where its goal is to double its market share to 6% by mid-decade by launching 15 new models. China's utility vehicle sales are projected to double from its 2012 levels by 2017, and the Edge looks well positioned -- as Chinese consumers have taken to Ford's SUV offerings -- to take more than its fair share of the growing market segment. Ford's Edge will also have a great opportunity to take market share in Europe and South America which are projected to grow 27% and 39%, respectively, according to IHS Automotive.
Ultimately, the Edge will succeed where Ford's other recent models have -- better fuel economy in a stylish design loaded with technology and safety features. The Edge will also take it a step further by fixing some complaints with previous MyFord Touch display and will unveil a new EcoBoost engine. Ford is targeting one of the hottest global segments and has set itself up for another vehicle hit with consumers.
Ford's Edge is an example of why I remain bullish on Ford: It continues to successfully design new cars that people actually want to buy.