Ford Motor Co. chairman Bill Ford and Joe Hinrichs, the automaker’s president of the Americas, were in Brazil on Wednesday for the debut of a concept described as one of the most important for the future of the company.
It is an early look at the next generation of the subcompact Ka, a five-passenger hatchback designed to be an affordable family car for millions of buyers in China, India, South America and other growth markets. The Ka is also sold in Europe, but there are no plans to offer it in the U.S.
“It is one of the most important product programs we’re working on, and I know the things we’re working on for North America,” Hinrichs said in a veiled reference to the all-new Mustang and F-150 expected next year. And the Ka breaks cover on the same day that Ford executives are in New York City to show the 2015 Lincoln MKC, a compact crossover that expands the Lincoln lineup.
“It’s a big deal for us,” Hinrichs said of the smallest car Ford makes. The Ka stems from a global platform developed in Europe, but most of the development since 2010 has been done in Brazil, where Ford has 1,200 engineers. “It’s been an important product program from the beginning and gotten a lot of leadership attention.”
This is the first attempt at global vehicles smaller than the Fiesta. The effort fills a gap in the One Ford plan to engineer, build and sell the same vehicles around the world while allowing Ford to move into areas where it historically has not made money, Hinrichs said.
“We’ve been talking for a long time about leveraging global platforms, but there have been questions about the lower end of the spectrum,” he said, and “whether Ford can move its global strategy down market.”
Strong Ka sales would also help Ford achieve its goal of 8 million sales annually by mid-decade. The automaker is about 2 million short.
Pricing has not been announced, but consumers in Brazil can get a Ka for $10,000 compared with the Fiesta, which starts at about $17,000.
The tiny Ka fills a spot in the market referred to as “sub-B” at the value end of the small car spectrum. The segment is projected to grow 35 percent from 2012 to 2017 to about 6.2 million vehicles. The Ford Figo sold in India also falls in this category. Hinrichs said 44 percent of these value vehicles will be sold in South America and south Asia.
“We need to be in this space,” Hinrichs said. “There is so much potential around the world.”
The 2015 Ka will launch in Brazil next year and then go on sale in other parts of the world. Competition includes the Chevrolet Celta, Volkswagen Gol G4, Fiat Uno Fire and Fiat Palio. In Brazil Ford will build the Ka at its Camacari complex.