With the new Ford Territory due in South Africa very soon, some customers are wondering if there is any real Ford-ness behind the badge of this Chinese-made SUV.

To say that our report about the upcoming Ford Territory set tongues wagging and rumours flying would be an understatement. After posting the article on our social media channels, a multitude of readers have voiced their opinions regarding various aspects of this SUV, and the comments are still coming in.

Much of our audience loves it, but some observers say that it looks like a Chery or a Haval. Maybe true. Others pointed out (often incorrectly) that it’s just a rebadged Something-Or-Other. To find out what’s really going on, we put on our sleuthing caps and got to work.

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What is the new Territory’s origin story?

As one does when faced with an unfamiliar phenomenon, Google was consulted as a first step. Among the search results was a Wikipedia page about the Ford Territory (China), which is known in its home market as the Equator Sport. Comparing the images and specifications, it is clear that this is indeed the vehicle we’ll be receiving in 2024’s second quarter.

There wasn’t much more detail on that page than we already knew, but from this starting point various other sources helped find the remaining tidbits of information to complete the puzzle. Built by the Ford-JMC (Jiangling Motors Corporation) joint venture in Nanchang, China, the Equator Sport/Territory is derived from the JMC Yusheng S330, albeit restyled twice with Ford's inputs since its first appearance. The image above depicts Ford's first restyling effort and the first to receive the Territory name, and the next-gen model we'll receive is an evolution from this base.

Image courtesy of carnewschina.com

As an interesting aside, the Yusheng S330 started its life as the 2015 “X7”, built by JMC’s sub-brand Landwind. This was the SUV which became world famous for looking almost exactly like a Range Rover Evoque, before being reappropriated, restyled and rebadged by the parent company for their Yusheng sub-brand. Chinese brand structures are…. complicated.

The 1.8-litre "EcoBoost" engine in the new Territory bears no relation whatsoever to the Ford EcoBoost engines we know.

The Landwind X7’s 2018 facelift also marked the first outing of the new “JX4G” engine family, jointly developed by JMC and the Austrian engineering consulting firm AVL with input from Ford. This engine remains the motive power for the latest Territory, and, while it may carry an EcoBoost badge, the 1.8-litre direct-injected turbo four-pot is a completely different power unit to any of the Ford engines we know. Its output figures of 138 kW and 318 Nm are nonetheless respectable, whether it is a real Ford engine or not.

The 7-speed wet-dual-clutch transmission is a known quantity, however, thanks to Getrag’s Chinese collaboration with both Ford and JMC, and gives the new Territory at least some commonality with world-market Fords. Also note that this gearbox bears no relation whatsoever to the disastrous PowerShift DPS6 dry-dual-clutch unit used in 2010-2019 Fiestas and Focuses, which is very good news.

Related: Should you fear the dual-clutch transmission? We explain how the DCT works, and investigate some of the myths of this gearbox type.

Why is Ford selling a Chinese SUV under its own name?

Ford’s current global competitor in the mid-sized SUV/crossover segment is the third-generation Kuga (also branded as Escape), which shares its Ford “C2” platform with the latest Focus. The Escape/Kuga is built in RHD form in Valencia, Spain, and this fact means that it would have been prohibitively expensive in South Africa, once local import duties and our atrocious Rand-Dollar exchange rate were applied.

Were it to come to South Africa, the Euro Ford Escape would have been far too expensive to compete in its segment.

Ford SA cannot allow this important market segment to slip away forever, and they would also like to regain some of the market share they lost since the last examples of the previous-generation Kuga were sold in 2021. And, because they can’t source something competitive from their usual channels at reasonable prices, they looked to the East to find it in a trusted partner’s catalogue.

Some perspective on the Territory’s Ford-ness can be found in the historical ties between JMC and Ford. JMC started producing the Transit van in China back in 1996 and still does, and has forged ever closer ties with Ford since then. Ford currently owns 32% of JMC, and JMC also produces the T6 Ranger and Everest for the Chinese market as part of this joint venture alongside their own restyled bakkies and SUVs.

The Ford Laser gave South Africans their first taste of a Japanese Ford, now the Territory will do the same with a Chinese Ford.

This is not without precedent, as Ford has done this kind of thing numerous times before. When the 1980s rolled around, Ford owned 24.5% of Mazda, rising to 33% by 1995. South Africans reaped the benefits of this partnership with the much-loved Ford Laser/Meteor twins, which were lightly restyled Mazda 323s, the Telstar, which was a Mazda 626 with some Ford styling cues, and the Courier, which was just a rebadged Mazda B-Series pickup.

The popular US-market Ford Festiva was a Mazda 121 in disguise, built in Korea by Kia before they became all respectable.

Ford has also sold Kia-built Mazda 121s in the USA under the Festiva and Aspire model names for many years, long before Kia became a reputable independent manufacturer. These models were all successful in their markets, so Ford is just reverting to a proven formula with the new Territory. And, as with the Laser and Telstar, Ford Australia (who also gave us the very capable last two generations of Ranger and Everest) had some hand in the Chinese Territory’s development.

Related: We found the Ford Ranger XLT to be a nicely balanced package in this review, here on ALL THINGS MOTORING.

The main concern is pricing

In its home market, the Ford Territory is priced about 10% higher than an equivalent Haval H6, which would translate to a starting price of around R 530 000 in South Africa. However, in the UAE, where the two Chinese offerings are also offered side-by-side, the entry-level Territory is almost 50% more expensive than the base H6.

The Haval H6 is priced against the Ford Territory in its home market, but a fair bit cheaper everywhere else.

How Haval manages to sell the H6 at a profit in export markets despite their low-low prices is anybody’s guess, but the same applies in South Africa. This will also explain the 30% price premium that an entry-level Territory would likely command over the equivalent H6, given the indicative pricing released by Ford SA. The Territory will be competitively priced against other legacy brands’ offerings in its segment, though, with the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage being two notable market opponents.

Related: The Chinese SUV value proposition - Should legacy automakers be concerned?

The Ford Puma is ruinously expensive in SA, making it an alternative premium boutique crossover rather than a volume seller.

Will the Territory hurt Puma sales?

Ford SA faces another problem, though: The smaller Puma, which is imported from Europe, starts at an oversized R 569 900. This positions it too close to the larger and more-powerful Territory for any comfort at Ford’s head office, and turns the 1.0-litre-engined Puma into a boutique alternative to premium-branded crossovers instead of a model with its own merit. Meanwhile, budget-minded buyers are flocking to cheaper Chinese-branded alternatives or the Indian Suzuki/Toyota twins instead of an EcoSport replacement.

Time will tell whether the pricey Puma is at all appropriate for South Africa, but, seeing as it’s struggling to achieve triple-digit monthly sales in a popular market segment, it’s probably fair to predict that the Puma won’t be around local showrooms for very long. Get one now if you want one, because it may soon go the way of other Euro Fords - away for good. Now if only JMC built some affordable compact hatchbacks as well…

If you want to buy a new or used Ford Puma, this selection on CHANGECARS will have the perfect fit for you!


Martin Pretorius