Ford (NYSE: F ) has given Americans an automaker to root for. It was the lone Detroit automaker to fight through the recession and learn its lesson without a government bailout. Since then, Ford has battled to change its business model and produce smaller, stylish, and fuel-efficient rides -- and it's working. This week Ford unveiled a small concept car named the Ka that could make a huge difference in its business -- although you probably won't see the ride here, at least initially.
Ford's Ka is a sleek, compact hatchback that will be a fuel-efficient choice for urban consumers in markets around the world. The Ka is smaller than the Fiesta and has many of Ford's recent design cues, including the trapezoidal front grille. Its raked hood, detailed lines, and sharp headlights give it a more aggressive look from the front than is typically found in the segment.
The Ka will provide seating for five and boasts its "best-in-class" air conditioning -- something we can all appreciate during brutal summer heat. The small ride could possibly launch in 2014 as an entry-level vehicle in emerging markets. Ford's aiming the Ka to take advantage of a segment projected to grow 35% by 2017, strongly outpacing the overall industry. The segment will account for approximately 6.2 million vehicles by 2017, and if the Ka is a hit, it will help boost Ford's market share around the globe.
"The Ford Ka Concept is aimed at customers in growth markets who want and expect more," said Joe Hinrichs, president of the Americas for Ford, in a press release. "It will delight consumers with its sleek design, clever technology, attention-to-detail quality, and superb craftsmanship. It also shows the continued importance of our South American design and engineering capabilities to serve markets around the world. It's truly another global design and engineering milestone for Ford."
The Ka will try to follow in the footsteps of Ford's Focus and Fiesta, which have cemented the company as a global success. People all over love the Focus, and it sells extremely well overseas. According to R.L. Polk vehicle registration data for the first half of 2013, the Ford Focus is the No. 1 selling nameplate on the planet, with 589,709 registrations. That's a 20% improvement over last year, driven by a strong performance in China, where the Focus is up 137% from the same time last year.
The Fiesta's success is a similar story. It ranks as the globe's fourth best-selling vehicle and the best-selling subcompact through June. According to Ford, this makes the Blue Oval the only brand with two nameplates among the world's top five best-sellers. If Ford plays its cards right, the Ka could be destined to join the Focus and Fiesta in the top 10.
As Ford continues to distance itself from arguably the darkest chapter in company history, it's been on a roll producing popular designs one after another. I expect the Ka to be just another global success for the folks at the Blue Oval.
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