Ford Motor Company’s history in China covers almost a century, with the 1913 sale of its first Model T in Shanghai. Despite Henry’s reported reverence for the working man (if not the U.A.W.), Ford’s China presence during the ensuing one-hundred years has been sporadic. Although not sure what propelled Mao’s Cultural Revolution in 1966, we’re reasonably confident it wasn’t the just-introduced Mustang; that would have been just another capitalist tool. Forty-five years later China finds itself enjoying an automotive revolution; Ford (and its Chinese partners) believes their new EcoSport SUV could play a significant role in that revolt.
One of four SUVs introduced by Ford to Chinese consumers at this year’s Beijing auto show, the EcoSport is both the newest and smallest. Described as aspirational, the urban (and urbane) crossover takes contemporary Ford design cues and shrinkwraps them into a B-segment package. And the ‘aerodynamically honed’ shape (Ford’s verbiage) is wrapped around so much smart technology as to make it ripe for China’s well-known industrial espionage; if, of course, Ford wasn’t already about to sell it there.
Among many available powertrain choices, the one of most interest – and buzz – is the 1.0 liter EcoBoost three. With smallish dimensions, and available in two horsepower variants, the EcoBoost is touted as being a segment leader in fuel efficiency. At its launch the EcoBoost was offered (globally) in two variants; the more modest develops 99 horsepower, while the healthier generates 118 horsepower and an immodest 125 lb-ft of torque. With an EcoSport moniker, we’d hope the new SUV gets the 118/125, relegating its 99 horsepower sibling to power accessories on America’s F-Series pickups.
Inside the production EcoSport is all the connection an aspiring capitalist/communist might hope for, including Ford SYNC driver connect with voice control, Smart Keyless Entry, iPod connectivity and BlueTooth. Notably, SYNC will be available in both Mandarin and English. And if you can’t SYNC, commonly-used expletives will translate into both.
To be built at Chongqing, the EcoSport, according to Joe Hinrichs, president Ford Auto Pacific and Africa, “delivers outstanding quality, great fuel efficiency with the 1.0 liter EcoBoost engine, superior safety and really smart design with SYNC.” There has, to date, been no announcement on the EcoSport’s future in the U.S. With the Chevy Spark and Buick Encore on our immediate horizon, Ford won’t have to wait long to determine the interest in the very small segment.