By on July 23, 2009

No, we’re not talking about stalking women of a certain age. To my summer flu-addled mind, this Focus-based softroader should be on the US market already, cashing in on one of the few successful segments left here. We hear it’s going to be built in Kentucky, but when?

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24 Comments on “Daily Podcast: The Great Kuga Hunt...”


  • avatar
    NulloModo

    The Kuga is certainly interesting from the photos and videos I have seen, but from the POV of a salesperson on the lot, I have to ask why they would bring it over here, or at least why they would do it if they plan to keep the Escape as well.

    With the current glut of CUVs and SUVs in the Ford lineup, vehicles like the C-Max and Kuga, while potentially great cars, will just end up stealing sales from other models.

    People are conditioned to think in terms of threes and in small-medium-large designations. The current Escape-Edge-Flex CUV lineup works well there, and the medium-large duo of Explorer-Expedition makes some sense. However, if you really want to break down the targest market of each vehicle –

    Escape – Great little fuel efficient grocery getter, room for a small family, practical, affordable, inexpensive to maintain and own, but little in the way of truck or SUV style utility aside from cargo space.

    Edge – The more refined/isolated ride, higher seating position, quietness, sense of mass, and space that used to draw people to Explorers, but with much better fuel economy and more car-like driving dynamics, i.e., an Explorer for those who don’t need to tow anything big.

    Flex – 90% of the interior space and people moving prowess of an Expedition at a lower cost with better fuel economy. While some complain about the cost, it takes a lot of options-box checking to get it up into the 40s, the base model at 29K still has tons of kit, more than most similarly priced minivans/CUVs, and doesn’t feel like a stripper in any way. The biggest issues with the Flex are that Ford doesn’t seem to know if they want to pitch it as a car/wagon/minivan or as a CUV, and the polarizing styling. Sales are picking up as people get used to it, but we could sell 10x as many Flexes if the design were a bit more rounded and ‘familiar’. I don’t see it going away, but I do see a fairly radical face-lift in the near future.

    Explorer – You need to tow upwards of 5000lbs on a regular basis, but don’t have the money or want for the size of the Expedition, that is really the only reason to look at the Explorer currently.

    Expedition – You have a big family, a big boat or trailer, and you need to move it all around fairly often, then, the Expedition is a good fit for you. We aren’t selling many as daily drivers anymore to people who will be solo 90% of the time. A niche vehicle, but a nice one that fits its bill well.

    There is currently some overlap between the Escape/Edge, the Edge/Flex. If the Explorer goes unibody and FWD, it will pretty much sit in exactly the same spot in the market as the Edge, just with different styling and a different name. For the life of me I can’t understand why Ford wants to crowd its CUV lineup with two models fighting for the same buyers.

    Bringing the Kuga here would have the same effect with the Escape, why do you need two small softroaders? Perhaps the next Escape will simply be the Kuga, although since the thorough rework in 08/09 the Escape is every bit as nice a vehicle as the CR-V and Rav-4.

  • avatar
    rnc

    Probably because one is an SUV and one is a CUV and the public (atleast the general public) distinguishes (considers) the two as different things. Why wouldn’t you cover both bases? And also because the loans from the DOE to modernize factories had to be used to produce more fuel efficient vehicles than were produced there b4 (not just hybrids/electrics) and the Kuga (possibly Cougar in US) qualifies. And since they are retooling thier factories to build multiple models, if energy prices do go through the roof again and focus demand kicks way up, then they can shift extra production to that plant with minimal effort. Maybe

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Will we getting the stick shift and diesel features shown in the video? How about rear-wheel-drive? Otherwise, this is just yet another 4-door hatchback jacked up off the ground.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    Chicks dig 4-door hatchbacks jacked up off the ground.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    rnc – Except the Escape isn’t an SUV, it is a CUV, just as the Kuga is. Personally, I define SUV as body on frame, RWD or 4WD, and CUV as unibody, and usually FWD or AWD. The Escape does have ‘baby Explorer’ styling, but that is where the SUVness of it ends.

  • avatar
    rnc

    I know technically its a CUV, but thats not what the general public (95%) perceives it as they perceive it as an SUV. Some people don’t want a CUV they want an SUV (its just perception, they aren’t ever going to take it offraod or use 4wheel drive, they just want the look and feel).

    I said it not long ago, sometimes the commentors on here get themselves confused (knows a great deal about cars) with the general public which have a different set of understanding and wants, those are who Ford (car makers in general) have to aim for. GM tried to appease those who said they wanted a 4 door/rear wheel drive performance sedan and didn’t do too well on that one.

    Like the comment above: Does the general public want Stick shifts, diesels and rear wheel drive?

    It’s like on the tech blogs people saying I would never buy an iPhone b/c it doesn’t have this or that, but apple isn’t making it for those specific people they’re making it for 95% of the population.

    Porsche or BMW can build for 5% and charge a premium to cover it.

  • avatar
    Wunsch

    Yes, that might be how you and I define an SUV, but the general public defines it as “looks like an SUV.” And the Escape looks like an SUV, so therefore it is one.

  • avatar
    FloorIt

    The name has to be changed. Kuga is too close to freddie Kruger.

  • avatar
    stars9texashockey

    Thinking that the American buying public (or any buyer for that matter) perceives a difference b/w SUV & CUV is giving them way too much credit. Kuga (renamed) should replace Escape for the main reason that the Escape is one dated piece.

    BTW, wait until the Explorer goes unibody if you are really hung up on the b-o-f vs. unibody debate.

  • avatar
    WetWilly

    If Ford doesn’t bring the Kuga here, don’t worry about it because in less than a year you’ll be able to buy its doppelganger the 2010 Hyundai Tucson/ix35. IMHO a Tucson Turbo/Kuga EcoBoost matchup ought to be interesting.

    From those pics of the Kuga’s center stack, the Tucson is already taking the lead.

  • avatar
    rnc

    Yes they do, one is boxy and one is bubbly (maybe not the best word), but its a world of difference and probably the first thing that will diff. the two and what someone would chose.

    In terms of the new explorer, the first thing the “general public” will probably think is:

    “this rides so much nicer and feels so much more solid than our last explorer (while the salesman tells them about the better mileage and all the other nice features that make it better etc), Ford sure has improved this”. It won’t occur to them that its not really an SUV b/c it has the tall/boxey look that is associated with being an SUV.

    The people who comment on here will rage about BoF and Uni. and AWD vs. RWD/4WD and how they will never buy one.

    There is a world of difference, I try to bring the other perspective, because it’s really the most important one.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    I do wonder if the Kuga will replace the Escape. Just like the similiar (to the Kuga) CX-5 is to replace the Tribute. Basically a Ford/Mazda version of the Nissan Rogue.

  • avatar
    dean

    It should replace the Escape, and be targeted price- and power-wise as a competitor to the RAV4. Toyota doesn’t have a CUV RAV4 and a boxy-to-make-you-think-SUV-but-basically-fulfills-the-same-purpose equivalent right beside it.

    If they keep both they are falling into the same old Detroit trap that says you have to offer every conceivable thing to your customer.

    In fact, they should just call this the new Escape.

  • avatar
    rnc

    What would the Venza be considered?

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Camry raised-wagon…such as the Edge is essentially a Fusion raised-wagon.

  • avatar
    86er

    Edward: H1N1 flu? (or swine flu, as is known colloquially?)

  • avatar
    rnc

    Sorry meant the matrix, which is a “small wagon”, seems the FUGA “a small raised wagon” has alot more potential being a CUV as the US doesn’t seem to be so hot on hatchbacks and wagons anymore.

  • avatar
    brettc

    If Ford brings this over and puts the right engine in it (a small turbodiesel) I’d buy one. VWoA didn’t think anyone wanted a Tiguan TDI, but there is definitely demand for a torquey, fuel efficient small SUV out there.

  • avatar
    bodyonframe

    NulloModo: +1. Yes, as many of you are pointing out Ford is rushing headlong into a lot of CUV’s cannibalizing each other. Couple this with the loss of the panther cars, BOF explorer, mountaineer and sport trac and maybe the ranger (all by 2012 at latest), and suddenly Ford only has the Mustang plus its full size trucks (and their siblings like expedition, E-series and navigator) that are “traditional” vehicles. Yes, I am a bit apprehensive of this happening. More like terrified, while the fusion may be a nice car, It’s still FWD which rules it out for me. Also last I checked expeditions aren’t exactly cheap and neither are navigators. So if you want RWD/4WD its F-series or mustang on price. Not exactly family vehicles but oh well I’m rambling……..

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    86er: let’s hope not. Summertime bugs are common here in the Northwest.

    And to clarify, I was assuming that this would replace the aging Escape (although the hybrid could stick around as a dedicated model). Kuga with the 2.0 (up to 275 hp) or 1.6 (up to 180 hp) Ecoboost engines would work for me. Kill the Edge, and make the Explorer unibody and you would avoid a lot of the overlap.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Edward –

    You have a good theory there. However, before I go gung-ho for killing off the Escape in favor of the Kuga I’d like to drive an actual Kuga. IMO the Escape gets a lot of undeserved bad press. Yes, while the underlying platform is a bit old, it was very thoroughly overhauled last year with new engines, new suspension tuning, and a new look the year before that. The rear drum brakes are really the only legacy thing about it, and the people who buy them overall are as pleased as punch with them.

    I’d also rather see the Explorer name die off than the Edge. The Edge is already making a name for itself as a good midsize CUV, while the Explorer name brings baggage of rollovers and poor gas mileage.

  • avatar
    don1967

    As a married 40-something male, I would go for a Kuga any day of the week. The car, I mean.

    Escapes are very popular where I live, but ten seconds in the seat was all I could handle. The Flex was interesting, but too plastic-glitzy and waaaay too expensive for a Ford. It took me about five minutes in that showroom to realize that I was about to buy my first Hyundai. From what I see in pictures, however, the Kuga would have at least slowed down that process. Bring it on, Ford.

  • avatar
    YellowDuck

    Saw plenty of these on the road in Italy this summer. Very nice looking – much like a RAV4 with just a bit more flair.

    Wonder what kind of mileage it would get? If it is in the same ballpark as the Rogue I imagine it would sell very well here. Personally, the only thing that kept me away from the Rogue was the lack of a manual transmission option.

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    Well, at least the name would not be an instant killer like in some other markets (in several Slavic languages Kuga (correct spelling too) means ‘the plague’).

    While not as much fun as the Euro Focus it is based on, the 2.5 litre 5 cyl from Volvo is still moderately entertaining.


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