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Ford to unify its small SUVs

Vertrek concept heralds a single replacement for Kuga and Escape, says Ford boss

FORD CHIEF Alan MulallY has confirmed that the European-designed Vertrek SUV concept, a star of the Detroit show, will give the firm "a great opportunity" to unify its two C-segment SUVs, the Kuga and Escape, when the next-generation soft-roader hits the market in mid to late 2012.

The new Kuga will adopt the look of the Vertrek, although

It wil I lose the roof glass, add a centre pillar and have simpler grille and silldesigns.

The Escape, Ford's US model, has outmoded styling that it still shares with Mazda's Tribute, the result of a defunct relationship. The Kuga, although selling well, has been criticised for having too little rear passenger and luggage room. The Vertrek's wheelbase is about four inches longer than the Escape's, and the Vertrek is more space-efficient than the Kuga.

The model unification is the latest in Mulally's 'One Ford' plan to rejuvenate the company by concentrating resources and management time entirely on the Blue Oval. In 2010 Ford traded profitably, beat Toyota to reclaim its position as second-biggest US

manufacturer (after GM)and paid off $13 billion (£8.2bn) of debt.

As well as the Vertrek, Ford had on show four 'electrified' C-segment models: battery-powered versionsof the Focus and Transit Connect, a C-Max hybrid and a C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid.

They were intended to emphasise Ford's belief that the best way to boost economy and cut C02 levels is to electrify whole model families, not just create individual vehicles. When Focus production starts in Michigan next month,conventional, battery and hybrid versions will beable to be built on the same line, with different procedures for electric cars needed in only 12 of well over 100 assembly stations. STEVE CROPLEY

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