LONDON -- Ford Motor will offer the EcoSport SUV in Europe without the spare wheel on the outside of the rear tailgate after the SUV's sales got off to a slow start.
The EcoSport has failed to make a big impact in the region’s booming subcompact SUV/crossover segment against sleeker-looking rivals such as the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and Opel/Vauxhall Mokka.
When the India-built EcoSport launched in Europe last year, Ford said the vehicle’s rear design could not be changed.
Ford now says the EcoSport will be sold in Europe without the exterior spare wheel starting in May. It will be an option offered at no extra cost, a Ford spokesman said. The EcoSport’s rear door will remain side-hinged.
The SUV’s redesign will also include new interior plastics and changes to the suspension. “We want to give it a bit more Fiesta personality,” the spokesman said. The Fiesta subcompact hatchback is Ford’s No. 1 seller in Europe.
IHS Automotive analyst Ian Fletcher said Ford appears to have made a “big misstep” with the EcoSport in Europe, given the potential growth in the segment in the next couple of years.
Ford sold 11,257 EcoSports in Europe through November after launching the model in April, according to figures from JATO Dynamics.
The segment leader, the Renault Captur, had sales of 149,701 during the same period. The Peugeot 2008, the No. 2 seller, had sales of 125,002 while Opel sold 114,658 Mokkas.
IHS forecasts that European sales of subcompact SUVs will grow to more than 900,000 by 2017 from 500,000 last year, boosted by new arrivals such as the Fiat 500X, which IHS predicts will sell over 70,000 units to put it fifth behind the Captur, 2008, Nissan Juke and Mokka.
IHS forecasts that Ford will sell 20,239 EcoSports in Europe this year, instead of its original prediction of 36,000 sales.
Ford designed the EcoSport to suit customers’ tastes in its main markets of India and Brazil where buyers prefer rugged-looking vehicles. Late last year Ford started production of the EcoSport in Russia to take advantage of the country’s growing SUV market.