Ford Woos Millennials with a Tiny SUV and Snapchat

November 15, 2016, 4:02 AM UTC
(Photograph: Courtesy of Ford)

It was hard to miss the message behind Ford Motor Co.’s pop-up event in Hollywood on Monday night. The tiny homes, vignette of Venice Beach, signs emblazoned with social media messages, and food stand hosted by the trendy Smorgasburg flea market were all code for “Hey, millennials, this is for you.”

And that’s the market—at least one of them—that Ford hopes its new EcoSport subcompact crossover will attract.

Ford’s SUV group marketing manager, Michael O’Brien, said Monday the company is also targeting women and empty nester baby boomers with the EcoSport. The idea, as its Go Small, Live Big tagline suggests, is to introduce a vehicle desirable to mobile, connected consumers who want to experience things, not collect them.

Ford, with the help of rap artist DJ Khaled, introduced its EcoSport to the North American market Monday night at the event and on Snapchat. Ford says it’s the first vehicle to be revealed on Snapchat.

A social media message at the Ford EcoSport launch party. (Photograph by Kirsten Korosec)
Photo by Kirsten Korosec

Ford (F) introduced the subcompact crossover ahead of AutoMobility LA, the new industry trade show that combines the automotive press days for the LA Auto Show and its related (and former) Connected Car Expo. AutoMobility LA, which officially kicked off Monday night, gets down to business Tuesday morning with a keynote from Ford CEO Mark Fields.

The EcoSport was introduced in 2003, but it’s never been available in the U.S. or Canada. It was originally built and sold in Brazil. It’s also sold in Argentina, Asia, and Europe.

The new EcoSport will come in four trim level offerings, including the S, SE, SES, and Titanium. Customers will be able to pick from 10 exterior color choices and seven ambient lighting options. The Titanium trim, pictured below, features more chrome details, and comes standard with a B&O PLAY audio system and 10 speakers. The SES is designed to look more rugged.

The Ford EcoSport in the "Titanium" trim at the Go Small, Live Big pop-up event in Hollywood.
(Photograph by Kirsten Korosec)
Photo by Kirsten Korosec

The vehicle will be offered in two different powertrains: a 1.0-liter ecoboost engine that is 2-wheel drive and a 2.0-liter engine with a 4-wheel drive. The latter is the same system on the Ford Escape SUV.

The inside features an 8-inch floating touchscreen with enhanced voice recognition. The vehicle will be equipped with its Sync 3 infotainment platform that will include Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, two rival software services that let the driver or passengers bring the functions of their smartphone into the vehicle’s central screen. This is in line with Ford’s previous announcement in July that all of its 2017 model-year cars, trucks, and SUVS will come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Other notable items include the EcoSport aiming to make more room, even though it’s a subcompact. The back storage area is accessed via a swing gate. The handle for the swing gate, which is incorporated into the taillight pictured below, is one of the cooler design details.

(Photograph by Kirsten Korosec)
Photo by Kirsten Korosec

There are easy places for passenger to stash their smartphones, with a cooled glovebox and dual pockets behind the front seats. There’s even a small shirt-sized pocket on the side of the passenger seat that a driver could easily access.

Ford EcoSport. (Photograph: Courtesy of Ford)
Courtesy of Ford

The vehicle also has two fast-charging USB ports and a standard 12-volt power outlet.

Ford says the new EcoSport will start arriving in dealerships in early 2018.