Ford’s EcoSport SUV, which made its debut at the Delhi Auto Expo in January and which has been confirmed as being ASEAN-bound, is set to be the second model built at the new Ford Thailand Manufacturing plant in Rayong. The plant, set to open on May 3, will initally build the Focus for the ASEAN market.

The production slot of the B-segment compact SUV, which sits on a Fiesta platform, was mentioned in passing on a slide in a briefing detailing the workings and capabilities of the upcoming FTM plant (the pix is from its Delhi debut). The briefing was arranged specifically for the Malaysian press contingent during the media preview of the third-generation Focus in Bangkok.

No production schedules – and thus, probable market debut dates – were revealed, but we’ve got word that the EcoSport, when it arrives, is very likely to wear a normally-aspirated 1.5 litre Ti-VCT engine, the same that is now equipping Thai Fiestas. Conversely, the EcoSport made its debut in India shod with a 1.0 litre three-cylinder EcoBoost lump in its 120 PS and 170 Nm form.

The region’s buyers aren’t going to see the particular EcoBoost unit – or any of the new family of turbocharged mills, for that matter – in ASEAN production cars for a while. Malaysia, of course, already has the Mondeo and S-MAX wearing the 2.0 litre, in its 203 PS output guise.

A quick aside on the last – things are set to change, because the incoming 2012 versions of the Mondeo and S-MAX will be dressed up to 240 PS forms. There’s an expected hike in pricing, about RM10k for the S-MAX and RM13-14k for the Mondeo, but the vehicles will feature additional kit and features; the Mondeo gets a full Titanium-spec bodykit, among other things.

Getting back to the 1.5 litre Ti-VCT unit, that one offers 109 PS at 6,300 rpm and 140 Nm at 4,300 for output numbers. In the Thai Fiesta, the unit is mated to the six-speed PowerShift transmission; aside from the revised capacity for the engine, the car continues on specifications-wise, based on the equipment list as seen on the display examples at the show.

The displacement revision has all to do with getting the Fiesta compliant with the country’s first-car progamme, which was approved in September last year and covers cars purchased from September 16, 2011 up to December 31 this year. In it, first-time car buyers are able to deduct excise tax paid for the purchase of the car from their personal income tax.

The tax-refund policy covers three types of vehicles – passenger cars with engines of 1,200-1,500 cc, double-cab trucks, and regular pickup trucks of 2,500-3,000 cc capacity.

For the passenger car part of the scheme, car buyers eligible for tax refunds must be at least 21 years old, and must hold ownership of the cars for at least five years. Their vehicles must not be worth more than one million baht, with an engine capacity not exceeding 1.5 litres.

The cars must also be manufactured in Thailand, excluding those produced with imported used parts. Car buyers will be refunded the actual amount of tax they have paid, with the ceiling of the refund set at 100,000 baht per car. As for the refund, that will be made from October 1, 2013 onwards.

The take up for the scheme – which aims to get at least 500,000 vehicles sold in its duration – has been reported to be slow, with only around 6,000 vehicles sold thus far through the plan.

Some final Ford-related news from Bangkok. On display at the Ford stand at the show, which opens to the public today, is an Australian-made Territory SUV; the vehicle has been brought in to sample response for a probable introduction in the Kingdom. And as for the new Ranger, that one’s flying – 3,000 already sold and 10,000 orders in the first four months in the Kingdom means it’s all chugging along for the pick-up.

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