Ford Kuga - Click above for high-res image gallery

How's this for an odd twist – Ford essentially kicked off the SUV craze with its Explorer, an embiggened four-door Ranger. And man, did we go crazy. Before the cheap-gas bubble burst, slightly more than half of all passenger vehicles sold here in America were SUVs. Just below the Explorer was and is Ford's little truck (which is no longer little) the Escape. And almost ten years later, the Escape pretty much looks like a body-on-frame SUV, even though people stopped associating SUVs with mud during George W Bush's first term.

So what if the next Escape looked more like the CUV that it actually is, and less like the SUV it isn't? And what if Lincoln got a version? Mercury too, though they already have the Mariner, a rebadged Escape. Also, what if the next escape was built here, but then badged as a Kuga and sold in Europe? According to CEO Alan Mulally and some other, more chatty Ford folks, it's all more than possible.

The latter is really interesting, and shows you just how far the dollar has fallen against the Euro. And it also shows you Ford's One Ford strategy at work – wherein starting very soon, most Ford cars are going to be global in nature. Aside from essential legal parts (like standard stability control in U.S. vehicles) the cars can be sold wherever. Built wherever, too. For instance, the Ford Fiesta, which will be coming to our shores next year, is Ford's best selling car in Europe and will soon be built only in Mexico and shipped both across the border and across the Atlantic.

Back to the Kuga, the plan is to begin building the Kuga in Louisville, Kentucky in late 2011 for export to Europe. Sometime after that, the Kuga will replace the Escape and the Lincoln/Mercury editions. Moreover, this could be the start of a trend – Fords being built in the U.S. for export across the pond.

[Source: Automotive News sub-req]

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