New small off-roader will lead an ‘onslaught’ of Ford SUVs

Ford small off-road SUV teaser

SUVs are more popular than ever, and Ford is betting that they will stay that way. The Blue Oval will launch what it calls an “onslaught” of new SUVs over the next few years, including a new small off-road-capable model, redesigned versions of the Escape and Explorer, and the much-discussed Bronco.

The new small off-roader, which doesn’t have a name yet, will sit below the Bronco in Ford’s lineup. Ford announced the return of the Bronco at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show to great fanfare, and plans to launch it in 2020. While the vast majority of SUVs on sale today have little or no off-road capability, Ford believes there is still a large market for this one.

Ford recently redesigned the gargantuan Expedition and began selling the tiny EcoSport in the United States, but the two models in between — the Escape and Explorer — are getting long in the tooth. New versions are on the way, Ford says, and both will get hybrid powertrain options. Ford offered a hybrid version of the Escape almost a decade ago, but has never built an Explorer hybrid before. Ford will also offer a sporty Explorer ST model, complementing the recently unveiled Edge ST.

Last year, Ford announced plans for an all-electric SUV, and that model is still on schedule for 2020. The automaker previously said the SUV will have at least 300 miles of range, making it Ford’s first serious attempt to take on Tesla. Jim Farley, Ford’s president of global markets, made that point explicit at a press conference on the company’s product plans.

“I’ll make a prediction … we’re not going to have to shoot it into space to make it famous,” Farley said. He claimed the electric SUV will have the “rebel soul of a Mustang,” but offered no details on performance or range. The SUV will be the first of six all-electric models Ford plans to launch by 2022.

Ford’s Lincoln luxury brand is going all-in on SUVs, too. It will launch two new utility vehicles by 2020, with the first set to be unveiled at the 2018 New York Auto Show. Two more models will arrive at some point after 2020.

While SUVs are clearly getting the most attention, all Ford models will get some tech upgrades. The automaker plans to equip all of its new vehicles with 4G LTE connectivity by 2019, and expand over-the-air software updates beyond infotainment functions by 2020. Ford is also adding a suite of driver-assist features called Co-Pilot 360 to most new models. The suite includes autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, a rearview camera, and automatic high beams.