Public feedback contributed to Ford Australia’s decision to avoid reviving the Territory nameplate for the new large SUV it has released this month.
The 4.8-metre Endura is only a few centimetres shorter than the Territory, though there is no third-row seating option as offered by the only SUV to have been produced locally.
It is just one of several factors that seemingly prompted stronger support for Endura rather Territory to replace the Edge nameplate that is used in other markets but blocked locally by rights owner Toyota Australia.
“Definitely [the Territory name] was high on the consideration list [to use instead of Edge,” said Ford Australia's marketing director, Daniella Winter.
“We researched the new product proposition with the prior [Territory] nomenclature, asking, "If we were to call [this large SUV] the Territory what would your reaction be, and how would you feel about that?"
“And we [asked former Territory] owners, we asked intenders, as well as rejectors of the brand. You always do a range [of people]," she continued.
“[The lack of seven seats] did come up in the clinics and other things as well. The vehicle is definitely a different content vehicle [to Territory]. It represents something different from a towing perspective than the Territory did [with a 700kg-lower braked towing capacity], so there were lots of elements that came through in the research that really just supported the decision that I think we were on the edge of making."
“It's always good to have spoken to some customers, to have formed the final view on what we would do on the nomenclature.”
Winter added Ford Australia also had to consider the Territory name’s time out of the market, while the Endura is consistent with the Blue Oval’s determination to use nameplates beginning with ‘E’ for its SUVs.
For now, the Everest is Ford’s only seven-seater SUV. A longer, seven-seater version of the Edge is sold in China but is left-hand drive only. Winter’s view on a right-hand-drive version is that “it would be a clear winner here if we had it”.
The Endura’s five-seater status makes it somewhat of an anomaly in the large SUV segment, where the majority of models – even those slightly smaller – offer either full-size third rows or 5+2 layouts with “occasional” extra seats.
Ford Australia admits the Endura is a bit of a loner.
“There is no five-seat equivalent for us to rate ourselves against,” said Winter. “You would expect that consumers will look at our product, and they'll also look at [Mazda] CX-8s and CX-9s and [Toyota] Klugers."
“They'll look at the top marks within the segment, and if they're after a seven-seater, then we're not going to offer the proposition for them. But, if they're after a five-seat, large SUV, then I think we'll be considered."
“[The Endura] has got a technology story to tell within the segment … and the premium-ness that the vehicle represents. The design elements are beautiful, too, so it's definitely positioned that way. We don't have an entry-level series [as] it's not where we're playing. It's definitely that kind of mid-series [mid-range positioning] and up,” Winter added.
Ford has settled on a single engine for the Endura locally, opting for a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel it felt was most suitable for our market. Turbocharged petrol variants of the Edge are available in other markets, including a powerful 2.7-litre V6 found in the performance-oriented ST variant.
“We looked at multiple powertrains when we were developing the [Endura] programme,” said Winter, “but we definitely think that the engine we've brought in is the right one for the market."
“If you reflect on our prior [Territory] sales, we always sold a lot more diesels. It was like 70 per cent of our mix, so I think it's the right combination of powertrain and towing capability for the segment, but we'll continue to evaluate what the next generation brings in terms of powertrain and models when that turn comes.”