June 24, 2014 at 1:00 am

Ford to introduce 2015 Edge crossover to Europe

Dearborn— Ford Motor Co.’s Edge crossover is going global.

The Dearborn automaker on Tuesday unveiled a more athletic, sleeker 2015 Edge that it hopes will continue to sell well in the U.S. when it goes on sale in early 2015. But Ford is changing course by deciding to launch the mid-size crossover in Europe, hoping to tap into a rapidly expanding overseas sport utility market both there and in China — more than 100 markets, altogether.

“Edge will enter the European market as our flagship utility,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s executive vice president of global marketing, sales and service and Lincoln. “This is a big deal for us. This is One Ford going the other way, where we are globalizing the utility that used to be in North America for everywhere.”

The usual process of the One Ford philosophy — one car for the same segment worldwide — is that cars are designed with a European focus for sale in the United States. This time, a distinctly American vehicle will be introduced to Europe.

The 2015 version of the crossover — larger than Ford’s Escape SUV, but smaller than its three-row Explorer — includes a number of updates, including adaptive steering (which reduces how much the driver has to turn the steering wheel at slow speeds, making parking and other tight maneuvers easier), a 180-degree front camera, enhanced park-assist and side park sensors.

It will be the first to come standard with Ford’s new twin-scroll turbo 2-liter Ecoboost. Built on the same mechanical foundation as Ford’s hot-selling Fusion, the Edge will also will be available with a 2.7-liter Ecoboost or 3.5-liter V6 engine.

“The all-new Edge is a showcase of Ford’s smartest technology,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas. “It’s the best of everything we’ve brought to the market to date.”

Since launching in 2006, the Edge has steadily sold about 120,000 vehicles per year in the United States, although sales are lagging this year. Through May, Ford had sold 51,368 Edges compared to 55,392 the year before.

Still, Ford says its Edge sales top those of Nissan Muranos, Honda Crosstours and Toyota Venzas combined, and that Edge shines most on the West Coast, where it’s the best-selling five-passenger utility in southern California.

Executives see even more opportunities overseas.

Farley said sport utilities like the Edge are the fastest-growing segment globally. In Europe, the segment is up 72 percent since 2008, and in China, Ford sells “every Edge we can ship,” Farley said.

“In Europe, utilities are the bright spot of the industry,” he said.

Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis at AutoPacific Inc., an automotive forecasting and research firm, said taking the Edge global is a unique move.

“It’s pretty interesting we’re going to be making a car here and selling it in Europe,” he said. “It hasn’t been done. We really haven’t seen anything that’s been good enough here to sell in Europe.”

Executives said customers who were polled showed strong brand loyalty and emotional attachment to the car. Ford hopes the Edge can attract younger, affluent and tech-savvy buyers.

The Edge will continue to be produced at Ford’s Oakville Assembly Plant in Ontario, where Ford recently made a $700 million investment that included the installation of more than 250 advanced robotics systems.

AutoPacific’s Sullivan said the redesigned Edge doesn’t “rock the boat” and is more of an evolutionary change, but he believes the vehicle has carved a place for itself among Ford’s other crossovers, the Escape and the Explorer.

“I think the Edge has moved up into a nice place and is going into an almost semi-premium space,” he said. “It doesn’t have the look of a family vehicle; this is more of a couple’s car.”

In Europe, Farley said the Edge will compete among luxury brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

Still, Sullivan is tempering expectations.

“I think it will be kind of a niche,” he said of the five-seater. “Three-row vehicles are really popular (in Europe). It’s going to have more of a limited appeal.”

The price tag of the 2015 Edge has not been set, but the current version starts at $28,100, according to Ford’s website.

mmartinez@detroitnews.com
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Retiring CEO Alan Mulally dropped by the Trend Conference at Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn Tuesday to show off the 2015 Ford Edge. / Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News
The interior of the 2015 Ford Edge. (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)
The 2015 version of the crossover includes a number of updates, including ... (Ford Motor Co.)