We were invited to the Ford EcoSport deep dive program in Goa this week where we got the chance to speak to officials from the higher tiers of the product development program.
When we asked them about the 9mm difference in the wheelbase lengths of the Chinese and Brazilian EcoSports (data acquired from the official websites of the two regions), officials said the wheelbases are the same everywhere in the world.
[There's an invisible difference to the design of the lower section of the bumper under the grille on the Indian car]
Ehab Kaoud, chief designer of the Ford EcoSport, pointed out that the area between the bottom left corner of the hexagonal grille and the air dam was pushed in for the car to qualify for the sub-4m tax incentives in the Indian market. He says if the Indian and Brazilian EcoSports are parked alongside each other, differences cannot be told.
Amid complaints that the exposed spare wheel is too macho or brash for European tastes, Ford officials said the car will be sold with the spare wheel bolted to the back door in every one of the 100 markets planned. However the the spare wheel cover would be a standard equipment in some markets, while in places like India, it would be an optional extra. Ford India begins exporting the EcoSport to Europe later this year.
Job 1 of the EcoSport at the Chennai plant would have 65% localization. The 1-liter Ecoboost engine is imported from Craiova (Romania) while the other engines, borrowed from the Fiesta's chassis, are localized almost entirely. Though there isn't an immediate plan to localize the 1L engine, there certainly appears to be one when volumes pick up. Ford makes over 15 engine variants on a single line at Chennai, and the Ecoboost could one day roll out of this plant. It is learned that the vision is to ultimately localize 85% of the car.
Ford opens bookings in June and deliveries would begin before the end of that month. A reason why Ford didn't announce bookings in advance is because they'd like customers to drive away vehicles soon after they book, without added delays. Ford officials say they are more prepared to respond to market demands today with the EcoSport than they were when they launched the Figo three years ago. No hints were dropped on the prices as they haven't been decided yet.
Ford is not ruling out 4WD technology for Europe but there appears to be no interest to sell this variant in India. In Brazil the EcoSport comes with 4WD on the top-end 2.0L variant. As the technology has been offered since the first generation EcoSport's launch in the early 2000's, it continues to be sold on the second generation model.
Trevor Worthington, APA Vehicle programs Director at Ford Motor Company, told Indian Autos Blog that extending the EcoSport's length to seat a bigger body shell, thereby allowing the implantation of two extra jump seats, would move it away from being an urban SUV "into something else." Ford has to be "really careful before performing such an operation." He said the EcoSport's size was determined with urban landscapes in mind and making a Grand or Mega EcoSport with seats for seven individuals was certainly not on the cards, though opportunities continue to be studied.