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Ford Banks On Shift From Cars To SUVs

One in five vehicles sold around the world in 2018 — about 14 million annually — will be sport-utilities or crossovers, according to forecasts by IHS Automotive.


“These statistics are really dramatic,” said Jim Farley, head of global marketing, sales and service for Ford. “Something is really changing in our industry.”

A seemingly insatiable appetite for crossovers, especially smaller ones, is pushing automakers to expand their lineups. The number of crossover models has more than doubled from 180 in 2000 to 370 today

Buyers from the U.S. to China, India, Brazil, Russia and Thailand see today’s crossovers as mainstream vehicles — much like sedans and coupes used to be the backbone of the industry.

The changing silhouette of vehicles has struck Farley, a voracious collector of data, and surprised some on Ford’s leadership team.

Fortunately Detroit’s automakers have been near the front of this trend. Sales of Ford’s SUVs and crossovers, from the subcompact EcoSport to the spacious Expedition, surged 37% last year, outpacing the industry’s 17% increase.

Ford confirmed Thursday that it will continue making the next-generation Edge crossover in Oakville, Ontario, where it is spending $700 million to expand. Ford exports the Edge to 60 countries.

In 2013, the Ford Escape/Kuga and EcoSport were the fastest growing and most important models, followed by the F-Series pickup. In India, Ford stopped taking orders for the EcoSport after filling half the year’s orders in a couple weeks.

Here is some geographic data on sales of SUVs and crossovers:

• China accounted for 8% of global utility sales in 2008. IHS projects it will represent 31% in 2018. Ford grew its share from less than 1% in 2012 to 5% last year. Ford now sells four crossovers in China.

• Asia, excluding China, should account for 8% of global SUV sales in 2018 from 7% now. Ford has increased its utility sales by 114% in the region.

• In Europe, the segment has grown in each of the past five years even as total sales declined. Europe had 23% of global SUV sales in 2008 and is forecast to dip to 21% in 2018. Ford is now launching a made-in-India EcoSport in Europe.

• In Russia, one in three vehicles sold is a utility vehicle.

• In North America, utility vehicle sales grew 10% last year and small crossovers grew 16% to 2.2 million units. But the U.S. and Canada will no longer be the dominant market. In 2000, only 1.8 million utilities were sold outside North America. That has now grown to about 10 million.

“What drives our business more and more are these kinds of customer shifts,” Farley said. The crossover craze “will have a big impact on our business, not just Ford, but the whole industry.”

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