Lockdowns and layoffs at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic devastated new car sales in 2020. Many would-be buyers felt no urgency to upgrade, given there was nowhere to go. Others snapped up used cars to save cash. For new 2021 models, the sales outcomes were grim. But while many models’ sales have since rebounded, some vehicles, like the 2021 Ford Escape, haven’t recovered.
In fact, the Escape‘s poor sales during the economic recovery have followed slumping sales for the model that began long before the pandemic.
The Ford Escape’s recent sales slump
Examining the Ford Escape‘s sales history for the past five years, you’ll see a clear downward trend. In 2016, its average monthly sales were 25,589, with a high of 30,861 that May and a low of 19,219 that January, Good Car Bad Car reports. A year later, the average monthly sales were actually up slightly to 25,691, with a high of 28,113 in March and a low of 20,588 in January.
But in 2018, sales began to dip — down to 26,685 cars a month. January again was the worst sales month with 18,947 Ford Escape units sold, while June was the high mark with 28,901 moved off of dealer lots. In 2019, May’s high point of 27,149 wasn’t enough to boost what was otherwise a lousy sales year. Only 20,115 units moved per month, with December’s low point of 15,669 sold dragging the average down.
Of course, the pandemic devastated sales the following year. Only 14,874 cars moved per month, with the fewest sales (6,602) coming in April. Each subsequent month, sales were below 15,000 except for December, when they picked up to 17,373. Ford sold more vehicles in the first two quarters of 2021 than all of 2020 by 696 cars. But overall, 2021’s numbers are far below 2016, 2017, 2018, or 2019 figures. At the current rate, the Escape will have another subpar sales year.
How it compares to other models in new vehicle registrations
According to Experian Automotive, the Ford Escape ranks in the top 20 in total registrations. However, its declining sales can also be seen in its new vehicle registration numbers. Though in 2017, the Ford Escape made up 1.9% of total vehicle registrations, 2018’s number sank to 1.6%. Despite the drop, the Escape was in the top half of the top 20 models by vehicle registration in both years.
However, in 2019, the Escape’s new vehicle registrations dropped further, to 1.4%. It also plummeted in the rankings to 16 out of 20. Last year saw a further dip to 1.3%, and in 2021, a drop to 1.1% put Ford’s compact SUV dead last in new vehicle registrations.
Handily eclipsing it in 2020 was the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (3.2%), the Ford F-150 (3.1%), and the Escape’s biggest competitor, the Toyota RAV4 (2.9%). And though it’s anybody’s guess as to which model will wind up on top at the end of the year, those models make up the top three, with the RAV4 on top.
Is the 2021 Ford Escape a bad SUV?
Declining sales numbers might seem to indicate the Ford Escape isn’t a great vehicle. But it’s actually solid with a few caveats. The exterior looks sharp, and it comes with two engine choices.
The standard version is a 1.5-liter inline-three, producing 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque and a 0-60-mph acceleration time of 8.4 seconds. Drivers get 27/33 mpg city/highway in the standard front-wheel-drive model and 26/31 mpg in the all-wheel-drive version. The upgraded model is a 2.0-liter turbo-four (250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque), which provides a fuel economy of 23/31 mpg with its standard FWD and can hit 60 mph in 6.9 seconds.
The cabin is relatively spacious, as is the cargo area. But a cheap-feeling interior, epitomized by the amount of hard plastic, does not do the Ford Escape any favors. Base models get a tiny display screen of just 4.2 inches, which increases to 8.0 inches with the SE and higher trims. Drivers get Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and satellite radio, which they can listen to through the standard six-speaker sound system.
There’s also plenty of driver-assist technology available. Features include lane-keeping assistance, automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, rear cross-traffic alerts, and blind-spot monitoring coming standard. Higher trim levels come with Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist Plus, with features such as road sign recognition and adaptive cruise control.
Overall, the 2021 Ford Escape isn’t a bad SUV, but it must be spectacular to stand out in its crowded segment. The interior trim, along with fairly average performance numbers, doesn’t help the Escape stand out from the pack. And unfortunately, those flaws, coupled with the pandemic, continue to drive down this compact crossover’s sales numbers.