Ford had a surprise in store for everyone at Auto Shanghai. We’ve been told that the new Mondeo would make its Asian debut there with the 1.5 litre EcoBoost engine, but there was no indication of this, the Ford Escort Concept making its world premiere as well.

The Escort Concept is a compact car of similar size to the Ford Focus, directed to serve additional customers in China’s compact car segment, which accounts for over 25% of the country’s total vehicle industry. The Focus is the best-selling nameplate in China last year.

It’s not meant to supplant the successful Focus, but rather act as a supplement serving alongside it. Ford says that the Escort is a “new kind of compact car, designed for a very different customer” that’s based on consumer feedback from China, whose needs are not being completely met by existing compacts.

Ford Escort Concept

While the Focus meets the needs of those seeking a fun driving experience and high level of technology, the Escort Concept targets those who value roominess, uncompromised functionality and sophisticated design above all else.

Ford’s market research concludes that customers in China seeks a stylish car, but not one that is arrogant or pretentious that also allows for family and friends to enjoy it too. The Escort Concept reflects those desired qualities. Hmm, are they suggesting that the Focus looks arrogant/pretentious and is too small for families?

Moving on, the concept car is of a very simple yet not completely featureless design. It keeps Ford’s latest global face (that some say it stole from Aston Martin) but with a more upright grille and elongated, jewelled headlamps to give it a more distinctive front end. The latter features the lucky figure of eight, proving that this car is designed for China after all.

Ford Escort Concept

The Escort Concept will be part of Ford’s ambitious expansion plans for China, which includes bringing 15 new vehicles to the country by 2015. China’s size and unprecedented growth of the vehicle market demands such drastic measures.

The compact car segment in China today is around 5.5 million units per year, about the size of total annual auto sales in Germany and the UK combined, and larger than Japan, the world’s third largest car market. Having two models – the Focus and Escort – contesting the huge market makes sense.

There are no plans yet of when the Escort will start production, or whether it will reach other markets outside China. But considering the Escort name has a long and successful history in North America and Europe (where it was replaced by the Focus in 1998), there’s a good chance that it will. Should it ever reach Malaysia, would you be interested in it?