Ford sales inched ahead in September largely due to two increasingly important sub-brands: the 2013 Ford Escape, and EcoBoost engines.
Both Escape and EcoBoost rose with a bullet during the month, with sales of the newly overhauled, iconic utility vehicle rising by nearly 15 percent over last year's sales of an earlier generation of the nameplate. It was the best-ever September for Escape.
And about 90 percent of Escapes sold came equipped with an EcoBoost engine, the Ford technology that allows a turbocharged, direct-injection four-cylinder engine to yield the same power — with improved mileage — of a six-cylinder of yore. In addition to traditional marketing, Ford is promoting the 2013 Escape with a branded entertainment project: "Escape My Life," a web series now rolling out on the models' YouTube channel.
That's not the only example of Ford's aggressive and innovative marketing of Escape — in addition to the web series, there was "Escape Routes," a primetime reality show on NBC, a Spanish-language spot that ran on network television during the NBA Finals, and a featured role in Ford's new "Go Further" tagline and corporate branding campaign.
"Consumers are dazzled by the technology in Escape and by EcoBoost," Ken Czubay, Ford's U.S. VP of sales, stated in a conference call with reporters. Among Escape's innovations: its hands-free tailgate that is activated by wiggling a foot under the rear bumper.
Ford now hopes that the new Escape can easily outpace last year's sales of more than 250,000 Escapes for the full year. For 2012 to date through September — by which point nearly all Escapes sold were the new 2013 model instead of left-over 2012s — Escape sales were just 7 percent ahead of a year ago.
Two other positive indicators for the new Escape also came with the September results. First, Czubay said that the nameplate demonstrated "an incredible conquest rate" of sales to previous non-Ford customers; he didn't specify a percentage. And second, Escape buyers are choosing higher-trim versions in the 2013 than in the 2012.
In short, it's hard to escape Escape these days — which is just the way that Ford's marketing execs want it.