Redesigning Ford's Edge is a challenge for the automaker. The mid-size crossover is something of a tweener – bigger than the hot-selling Escape but smaller than the automaker's seven-seat Explorer SUV. Ford doesn't want the new Edge to cut into sales of its brisk-selling siblings.
The automaker is showing off where it's headed with the Edge at the L.A. Auto Show, displaying a concept vehicle packed with collision avoidance technology and other features such as remote-operated parking, options Ford believes will be in increasing demand for consumers.
The vehicle is close to what is expected to hit showrooms in the next year, give or take a few months.
"We are trying to be smart with what we bring forward and what we leave behind," said Kevin George, the car's designer manager. "We have a vehicle that already sells well."
What stays: Five seats. Ford doesn't plan to grow this into the next Explorer.
What goes: Its current platform and outdated boxy styling.
Ford wants it to more athletic and aggressive, offering the "appearance of a runner at the starting blocks."
That's achieved but adding more sculpture to the sides of the crossover, giving it a greater sense of motion, George said.
In sculpting the surfaces, he pulled some of the Ford design DNA and cues from the popular Fusion sedan.
In front there is a trapezoidal shaped grill. To the rear there's a notched rear, which emphasizes the spoiler on the trunk lid.
"We want it to be the Mustang of crossovers," George said.
The new Edge will be built on Ford's new global midsize vehicle platform with the same underpinnings of the Ford Fusion sedan introduced last year.
This is part of a Ford plan to reduce the number of platforms its vehicles are built from to just nine from the current 15 by 2017. Ford sees this as a way to increase assembly efficiency and flexibility.
With the rest of the world discovering roomy crossovers, Ford sees the Edge as a global vehicle.
The new version will be marketed in Europe. It also is expected to see sales in parts of South America. Ford plans to start assembling the current version for sale in Russia.
"What does it uniquely offer that people can't get in the Escape or the Explorer," said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with auto information company Edmunds.com.
In the U.S., Ford will have to work to better differentiate the new Edge from the Escape and the Explorer, said Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis for AutoPacific Inc., an industry consulting firm.
"It costs almost as much as something with three rows of seats but has only two," he said. "If you are looking for two, why not just buy an Escape?"
So far, the automaker's success with the Edge has been from buyers slightly outside the Ford norm, said Cristina Aquino, Edge marketing manager
For example, 47% of its buyers are women, compared with 34% for all Ford vehicles, Aquino said. The household income for the buyers is a touch higher than the buyers of Fords in general. And they are less likely to have children, she added.
Through the first 10 months of this year, Ford has sold about 108,000 Edges. That compares to 250,000 Escapes and 161,000 Explorers.
It ranks sixth of the 23 mid-size SUVs and crossovers in the market, slotted just behind Honda's Pilot but in front of the Toyota Highlander, Caldwell said.
"It is a good volume vehicle and has done well, even at the end of its life cycle," said Sullivan at AutoPacific. "A lot of car companies would like to have a crossover with Edge's sales."