Ford stumbled with the EcoSport and was forced to make rapid changes to address poor sales. So what went wrong? The simple answer is that Ford didn't get the design right. In response, the revised EcoSport no longer has a rear-mounted spare tire and Ford has made styling, comfort and equipment changes to the interior just a year after the small SUV went on sale.
Ford took immediate action because it was at risk of missing out on a huge boom for small SUVs in Europe, where the segment grew 54 percent last year to more than 760,000 units and analysts at IHS Automotive believe the segment will grow to 1.3 million by 2020.
The segment is doubly valuable to mass-market brands because it is one of the few where they don't have to compete with premium automakers.
The winners have been Renault with the Captur, Opel/Vauxhall with the Mokka, Peugeot with the 2008 and Renault's budget brand, Dacia, with the Duster.
Ford has been a conspicuous loser. In the first five months of this year it sold just 14,518 EcoSports, well behind the Captur's volume of 83,292, according to figures from JATO Dynamics.
The market is heavily skewed toward France, which has benefited French automakers disproportionately, but that hasn't stopped Ford rival General Motors from capitalizing as sales of the Opel/Vauxhall Mokka were up 36 percent to 68,807 through May, JATO's numbers show.
As in other SUV segments, customers have looked beyond the badge to the design, rewarding better-styled models with stronger sales. The original EcoSport sold in Europe included the rear-mounted spare tire because the car was initially aimed at car buyers in countries with tire-shredding roads such as Brazil, where the small SUV was styled. The rear-mounted tire made the India-built vehicle look too rugged to European customers. It reminded me of slightly oddball small SUVs from the past such as the Daihatsu Terios.
Ford initially said the feature couldn't be changed, but it somehow found a way. Customers who order the EcoSport without the feature will get a tire inflation kit.
In addition, the small SUV's rear side-hinged tailgate has also been redesigned for easier opening in tight spaces.
The original EcoSport also may have proved too utilitarian for customers. According to a Ford statement, the redesign includes chassis changes to make the EcoSport's ride and handling more suited for European as well as comfort upgrades such as thicker soundproofing material to reduce cabin noise.
Subcompact SUVs have global appeal as sales are booming in markets as diverse as the U.S, Indonesia, China, India and Europe. Ford has discovered, however, the same car doesn't work for all markets.