PRETORIA, South Africa – With the launch of the Ford Figo Freestyle and EcoSport Ambiente a/t so far during 2020 Ford continues to respond to the undeniable change in buying patterns that has seen volumes of sport utility vehicles and small crossovers grow.
Demand for such vehicles, given with their passenger-oriented body style – has been rising through the past decade to such an extent that, according to Ford, ”demand has out-numbered sales of sedans and family hatchbacks for space, practicality and visual appeal”.
Ford has been among the leaders in the mini-SUV segment – which includes the brand’s EcoSport – with sales growing from four to 10% since market share since 2010 and further growth expected.
Atloli Lesela, Ford SA’s brand manager for cars, reported: ”The mini-SUV segment grew substantially with the maiden launch of the EcoSport in South Africa in 2013 and the model has dominated this class ever since.
“The recent introduction of a six-speed auto transmission for the EcoSport 1.5 Ambiente was another trend-setting move for the model. It now offers the best value for money for an automatic in the entry mini segment.”
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Ford’s Europe’s sales data indicates that more and more buyers want an autobox: the past three years has shown cars and multi-purpose vehicles with an auto transmissiontripling their sales from 10.4% in 2017 to 31.3% in January 2020.
Lesela added: “An automatic transmissions lets drivers enjoy the very latest technology – easier parking, relaxed stop-start traffic, simply more comfortable overall.”
Data in South Africa is equally compelling: according to George Mienie, CEO of AutoTrader, SUVs are far more popular than sedans in South Africa.
“In June 2020,” he reports, ”there were 35%more searches for an SUV than a sedan. Searches for transmission type are overwhelmingly in favour of automatics*. In June 2020 72% of potential buyers filtered searches by gearbox for the Ford EcoSport against 26% for manual. The remaining two percent searched for a combination.”
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South Africa’s extensive gravel-road network can be especially punishing on a car’s suspension and tyres. SUVs and crossovers can better handle this harshness through slightly longer suspension travel and bigger 205/60 16” rim/tyre combinations such as those on EcoSport Ambiente and Trend models.
”In the unlikely event of a puncture,” Ford says, ”the EcoSport’s boot-mounted full-size spare wheel is easy to access while the EcoSport Ambiente’s ground clearance of 206mm adds further peace of mind on Trend and Titanium models.”
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A mini-SUV such as the EcoSport, Ford suggests, has other advantages apart from being able to confidently reach beautiful corners of South Africa on gravel.
”The higher seating position,” the automaker adds, ”creates a feeling of security. Sitting higher allows the driver to make better and earlier decisions on the road – the difference between hitting or avoiding a pothole – or, in cities, correctly accessing narrow parking bays and navigating congested traffic.”
Crash mitigation is another important consideration: each EcoSport has six nitrogen bags, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control.
”Combined with the EcoSport’s compact footprint and small turning circle,” Ford says, ”the enhanced EcoSport range is ideal for all families and roads. Whether you’re seeking a weekend getaway or safety on city streets, the EcoSport range is the complete all-rounder.”