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Ford grabs Equator naming rights for Territory replacement

Ford has applied for a trademark of the Equator nameplate previously used on concepts, but never applied to a production model.

Ford has been forced to rename its imported Territory-replacing Edge large SUV to Equator for the Australian market because the local Toyota operation has elected to not relinquish the Edge trademark.

Toyota Australia PR boss Beck Angel has revealed that the company last year rejected Ford’s request to co-share the naming rights for Edge, which Toyota uses for special-edition versions of the RAV4 in Australia and New Zealand.

“After careful consideration, we have declined Ford’s request to use the ‘Edge’ trademark in these countries,” she said.

Hence, Ford Australia cannot use the global Edge nameplate for the large SUV that will arrive locally in 2018 to replace the home-grown Territory – which is currently selling its last examples after its production run ended last October.

After hearing the decision, an Australian motor vehicle trademark registration application for the Equator name was filed by Ford Motor Company headquarters in Detroit on January 20, but it is yet to be processed and approved.

Reprising a name used on Ford concept vehicles in 2000 and 2005, the use of Equator is consistent with the Blue Oval’s moniker-recycling habit.

Previous examples include the Zetec engine family morphing into a trim level, the Escape badge making a comeback on what was until last week the Kuga mid-size SUV, and Escort turning up on the boot of an Australian-developed small car for the Chinese market.

Although keeping the Territory nameplate alive has not been ruled out by Ford executives, it is clear the company would prefer a clean break between the Falcon-based Australian-made SUV and its confirmed Canadian-built successor.

Calling the new model Equator would also satisfy the desire of Ford Australia president Graeme Whickman to reflect the current US market convention of SUVs with names that begin with an E: EcoSport, Escape, Edge, Explorer and Expedition. This will change when the Ranger-based Bronco hits the North American market in 2020.

The Equator name made its first outing at the 2000 Detroit motor show on a concept based on the F-150 pick-up truck, but it never reached production.

In 2005 another Equator concept emerged at the Tokyo motor show, previewing the 2006 Escape SUV that was built in Taiwan alongside its Mazda Tribute twin.

Ford owned an Australian Equator trademark around that time and the concept was a product of former Ford Australia designer Paul Gibson, who worked on it during a stint at the company's Taiwanese studio, but the trademark lapsed as no production model using the Equator name came about.

Sharing a platform with the mid-size Mondeo, the current Edge is built in Canada and China, with the latter available in seven-seat form while the North American version is five-seat only.

Ford Australia has said it will not import the Chinese Edge, but the long gap between Territory production ending last October and the arrival of its replacement suggests we will see a facelifted model here that may have adopted a third row of seats.

If that happens, the Edge – or Equator – will duke it out against the Toyota Kluger, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and Nissan Pathfinder.

North American Edge buyers have a choice of 2.0-litre four-cylinder and 2.7-litre turbo-petrol engines plus 2.0-litre four-cylinder and 3.5-litre V6 diesel options.

Should Ford follow Holden in keeping an Australian nameplate for its imported replacement or is it better to make a clean break with their manufacturing past? Tell us what you think in the comments below.