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Spied: Homework Honda HR-V at Ford

Outside influence: This left-hand-drive Honda HR-V was snapped outside Ford Asia-Pacific’s Product Development Centre in Victoria.

LHD Honda HR-V test vehicle spotted outside Ford’s Australian engineering centre

Ford logo13 Dec 2018

FORD engineers have been evaluating a Honda HR-V as part of their homework for one of the Blue Oval’s own compact SUV models, possibly an updated EcoSport that is sold in 140 countries and manufactured in six plants around the world.
 
The left-hand-drive HR-V – complete with LHD engineering evaluation sticker on the tailgate – was spotted while parked outside the security gate to Ford Asia Pacific Product Development’s compound at Broadmeadows, on Melbourne’s northern fringe.
 
The rear window of the vehicle was emblazoned with a sticker for Daitan Honda, which a Google search reveals is a chain of Honda dealerships in Brazil.
 
Some of the Daitan dealerships are in Brazil’s biggest city, Sao Paulo, home to Ford’s subsidiary in that country, Ford do Brasil, which has had a large influence on EcoSport since it launched the original version in 2003.
 
Providing that the sticker is not a ruse to throw off nosey journalists, our best guess is that Ford do Brasil bought the HR-V from a Sao Paulo dealership and shipped it to Melbourne for inside-out benchmark testing ahead of development of a new model to be sold in Brazil and probably elsewhere.
 
It is not the first Brazilian-sourced vehicle to be spotted by GoAuto under test by local Ford engineers. In 2015, a Hyundai i20-based light hatchback wearing the badge HB20 was seen at Ford’s You Yangs proving ground.
 
In Brazil, the HB20 (HB stands for Hyundai Brazil) competes with Ford’s Fiesta-based Ka. 
 
The HB20 was one of several light hatchbacks and sedans from developing markets under test at the proving ground at the time. Another was the Chinese market Chevrolet Sail.
 
In fact, a constant stream of vehicles from rival brands pass through the engineering centres at Broadmeadows and Lara as Ford keeps tabs on competitor developments.
 
As the lead vehicle development entity for Ford Asia Pacific, the Australian engineering and design centres helped with the development of the current generation EcoSport ahead of its launch in India six years ago.
 
More recently, the operation followed up by playing a significant role in reworking the entry-level SUV for the North American market where it made a belated entry to showrooms this year.
 
The US version of the vehicle received new front and rear styling treatments and a revised interior – including a bigger touchscreen – to make it more palatable for Americans.
 
With Ford slashing its passenger car range in many markets, including North America, SUVs such as the EcoSport take on greater importance.
 
Originally launched in India but now also made in Brazil, China, Romania, Thailand and Russia for global markets, the EcoSport occupies Ford’s space in one of the fastest-growing market segments in the world. 
 
Ford is also developing a larger mid-sized SUV, nicknamed Baby Bronco, for release in the next year or two. This vehicle is believed to sit on Ford’s new front/all-wheel-drive modular vehicle architecture underpinning the latest Focus that is being launched in Australia this week.
 
This mystery vehicle was confirmed by Ford earlier this year when the company flashed a teaser image of it during a presentation in the United States. The image showed a chunky design with flared wheelarches and front tow hooks that point to greater off-road capability than the average compact SUV.
 
It is unclear what role Ford Asia Pacific might play in this vehicle, if any.
 
As GoAuto has reported, Ford Motor Company has lodged a trademark application for the name Puma, which seems an appropriate name for a small off-roader, potentially the Baby Bronco.
 
The Puma badge was used previously by Ford on a Fiesta-derived two-door coupe made in Germany. That car was killed off, and is unlikely to be resurrected.
 
The Baby Bronco, or whatever it ends up being called, will sit below the born-again Bronco large SUV that is being spun off the Ranger’s T6 ladder-chassis platform. 
 
Because Ford Asia Pacific’s Australian engineering and design centres lead the development of the T6 products, it is conceivable that the Bronco will have an Australian connection.

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