We first reported that the Ford Grand C-Max, a new seven-seat mini-minivan cooked up by the company’s European wing, would come to the U.S. when the model made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show last year. With confirmation yesterday that production will begin soon in Spain, it’s time to take a closer look at the case for the Grand C-Max in America.
Specifically, a third of the Grand C-Max’s competition has bowed out before the race even began. As we reported two weeks ago, Chevrolet has canceled plans for a U.S.-market Orlando MPG, effectively handing the segment over to Ford. Of course, there’s more to it than that. The Grand C-Max will still have competition from the only other player in the game, the Mazda5, which has been cruising along since 2005.
That’s not the end of the story either. Though similar in size, the current European C-Max is actually a full 10 inches shorter than the Mazda5. Dimensions for the 2011 C-Max haven’t been announced yet, but we’re hoping it’ll be a bit bigger since unlike the Mazda5, the U.S.-market Grand C-Max will seat seven (the Mazda seats six). Ford will also have to price the Grand C-Max aggressively to compete with the Mazda5′s $19,260 starting price.
The big question, though, is whether this is the right move for Ford. You see, the Mazda5 isn’t exactly flying high here in the U.S. market. Sales in 2009 were down 16 percent to 18,488 units. Sales rebounded earlier this year, but by March they were off by double-digits again, a trend that would continue through April. The Grand C-Max’s larger potential competitor, the Dodge Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country, has had an equally rocky year. Crossover sales, however, have been solid, and Ford has no shortage of crossovers and SUVs in its lineup. Further, while Ford is building hybrid and electric versions of the five-seat C-Max for Europe, no such model has been announced for the U.S., a potential missed opportunity.
Ford is betting that the compact car and crossover segments will be the next hot spots as Americans step down from larger SUVs and crossovers to save money and fuel. Is the Grand C-Max what they want? Have your say in the comments below.