Ford Australia has admitted the previous version of its Escape mid-size SUV failed, as rivals like the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4 won over Aussie hearts, but now the carmaker has said the new-generation model has what it takes to succeed.
Speaking recently at the media launch of the new Escape, Ford Australia product manager Lionel Santoso said that while the previous-generation model started with solid sales, the competition proved too fierce.
“The medium-SUV segment is the most competitive of the industry. The previous-generation Escape or Kuga had a period of very strong performance from 2015 to 2017 when it was relaunched as an Escape, with 500-600 units a month, but that dissipated quickly because of the aggressiveness of the competition with the release of new models,” he said.
In 2015, sales of the Kuga reached 4344 units and then 4432 in 2016. In 2017, the Kuga was given a major facelift and had its name changed to Escape, but annual sales only increased slightly to 4987 units that year before dipping down to 4764 in 2018.
Meanwhile, the likes of the Mazda CX-5 recorded sales of 26,173 units in 2018. The Escape was also well behind other rivals such as the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson and Nissan X-Trail.
Mr Santoso believes the new Escape’s look will be a major part in attracting buyers.
“The previous car was a handsome car in its own right, but in terms of its silhouette, it was probably a little bit different from the rest of the cohort these days. This new Escape is a totally different look – this is an SUV for 2020 in terms or proportion, presence and sheer sleekness of it. It’s very much on point for the segment for today and that will play a great deal in terms of wining our customers hearts back,” he said.
While Australia and the United States use the Escape badge, the Kuga nameplate is still going strong on the same model in Europe. As for another name change back to Kuga, Mr Santoso says that’s been ruled out.
“Nope. We’re not going to do a Bank of Melbourne/Westpac on you," he said referring to the change in name of the Bank of Melbourne to Westpac and then back again.
The Escape sits above the Puma in Ford's SUV line-up, with prices starting at $35,990 plus on-road costs for the entry point into the range and topping out at $52,940.