May 16, 2009 in Business

WHEELS

 

Fiat’s alliance with Chrysler could pave the way for Ford Motor Co. to offer its stylish little Ka city car in the United States.

Ford has not announced any plan to sell the Ka here, but the company’s executives are enthusiastic about the small car, which is popular in Europe.

At just 142.5 inches long, the four-seat Ka is smaller than any car sold in the U.S. except the tiny two-seat Smart Fortwo.

There’s no history of Americans buying cars that small in meaningful numbers, and that uncertainty has made Ford reluctant to bring the Ka here.

Chrysler’s deal with Fiat might remove a major roadblock from the Ka’s path to American roads, however.

Do you own an orphan? Plenty of us do, and even more of us will.

“Orphan” is the term used in the auto industry for vehicles that are no longer supported by an active dealer network. We’ve seen orphans before — Oldsmobile and Plymouth, for instance — and we will soon see more.

If you own an orphan, are you going to have problems finding parts? Will resale values plummet? Should you buy a “new” orphan, figuring you can get it at a fire-sale price?

The first official victim of the ongoing turmoil in the automotive industry is Pontiac, which will cease being a General Motors brand at the end of 2010. Pontiac might not be the last victim. At GM, the futures of Saturn, Hummer and Saab are unclear. At Ford, Mercury has long been rumored to be in trouble.

And at Chrysler, who knows? If the alliance with Fiat doesn’t work, the entire company could be parceled out to the highest bidders.

Even with Pontiac, this is not cause for immediate, or even long-term, alarm. Parts will be available, service will be available and warranties will be honored.

And even if dealerships close — and many will, as GM is planning to shutter 2,600 of its 6,200 dealers, and Ford and Chrysler are expected to pare their outlets, too — surviving dealers will welcome your business, and your warranty claims.

And as we saw with Oldsmobile and Plymouth, there are great deals to be had on closeout vehicles. And, perhaps surprisingly, resale value of those brands remains stronger than you would expect.

From wire reports


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