Ford unveils global small car, key to opening emerging markets

Wed Nov 13, 2013 11:03am EST
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By Deepa Seetharaman

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) will launch a small car aimed at emerging markets next year, the toughest test yet of Chief Executive Alan Mulally's strategy of building "global" models that can be sold in countries around the world.

Top Ford executives, including Chairman Bill Ford, were at the company's Camacari plant in Brazil on Wednesday to showcase a concept version of the global Ka four-door, five-passenger hatchback, which will be introduced in Brazil next year.

Eventually, Ford will bring the global Ka to other emerging markets, including China, where more families are amassing the wealth needed to buy their first vehicle.

The Ka compact is the smallest and cheapest Ford vehicle to get a global overhaul, competing in what Ford calls the "sub-B" segment. The No. 2 U.S. automaker has long struggled to make money in this market, which is in the midst of significant growth and intensifying competition.

"These vehicles really are important to us globally to move into areas of the business where we have historically not had good share, not made money," said Joe Hinrichs, who leads Ford's operations in North and South America.

"If you're going to grow, especially in the growing emerging markets around the world, you need to have this entry-level family car," he said.

Ford expects global sales of small, low-cost cars to grow 35 percent between 2012 and 2017, outpacing the expected 12 percent rise for the industry as a whole. Ford said 44 percent of the market for "sub-B" cars will be in South Asia and South America.

The automaker now feeds this market with its current-generation Ka and Figo, which are built on older, locally tailored vehicle platforms that Ford is increasingly avoiding.   Continued...

A woman has a drink as she walks past a logo of carmaker Ford at the entrance to a media event for the launch of a concept car in Sydney August 13, 2013. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz