I don't know if Alan Mulally's "One Ford" idea is as coruscating as Ford PR says, but it does make sense not to build two completely different vehicles for exactly the same market niche. Ford used to do that in Europe, with multiple British and German models having separately tooled engines, gearboxes, and body shells. Ford now builds two very similar but unrelated vehicles in the compact SUV category: the Kuga in Europe and the Escape in America. A third, slightly different Escape is also built in Taiwan for Asian markets. That's obviously too many, and the Vertrek concept from the Detroit show gives us a glimpse of a true Mulally-mobile. The Vertrek is meant to prefigure the all-but-identical Kuga and Escape coming soon. Styled in Cologne, Germany, where Stefan Lamm leads all the C-segment (Focus-size) design teams, the convincing Vertrek exterior is by Croatia-born Kemal Curic, a seven-year Ford of Europe veteran who moved to Dearborn, Michigan, early this year. Freeman Thomas, himself one of the brightest sparks at Ford, is lavish in his praise of Curic's creativity, which speaks volumes. When one designer extols another, you know there's an exceptional talent. The interior, by Australian Dennis Sartorello, is equally convincing, although in the long tradition of concept cars, it is likely to be toned down (and cheapened) for production. The glass roof may or may not be available, but the rest of the car is pretty much what you'll be able to buy quite soon.
There is nothing especially extraordinary about the Vertrek, it's just that the stance, the flow of the lines, the shape of the roof, and the perfect simplicity of the wheelhouses combine to make this an exceptionally attractive vehicle. Moving the hood/windshield intersection forward allows sports-car-like windshield inclination, and by raising the roof over the driver, a tapering Kamm-style aerodynamic roof profile could be adopted without losing interior space. Don't expect to see the door glasses meeting as elegantly as seen here; a thick B-pillar is almost inevitable for safety's sake. Note that the high front end is affected by European pedestrian safety legislation, requiring a lot of space between hard points on the engine and ancillaries and the enclosing sheetmetal, a partial reason for the bump on the hood.
In general, I don't much like SUVs, but the newest models that eschew a separate (heavy) frame -- more tall station wagons than off-road scramblers -- are becoming acceptable to those of us who abhor trucks as personal transport because of their weight and waste. There are tens of thousands of people who genuinely want the high seating position, the big tailgate opening, and the optional four-wheel drive offered by vehicles like this, and it is hard to imagine that they won't be pleased by the clean lines of the Vertrek. In fact, the Vertrek concept is so good, I can almost see myself using a production version. Almost.