Ford’s Ka Concept Is Almost A Certainty For Developing Markets

  • What it is: a subcompact (B-segment) hatchback based on Ford’s global B platform for sale solely in developing and emerging markets
  • Why it’s important: demand for vehicles in the segment is expected to increase to roughly 6.2 million units by 2017, a growth of 35 percent, making it important for Ford to be present in this segment with a competitive vehicle
  • When it will launch: no date announced, but Ford says that “a vehicle such as the Ka Concept could launch in 2014”
  • Where it is made: no production plans have been announced, but manufacturing could take place in the markets destined to receive the new Ka, namely South America and Asia
  • Why it’s unique: the Ka Concept exists in an interesting category of vehicles that’s not attractive for North American consumers
  • What’s interesting: the arrival of this Ka Concepts likely signals the discontinuation of the Europe-only Ka city car

There is an interesting category of vehicles that has been slowly coming into prominence in certain markets around the world. The subset of vehicles we’re referring to are subcompact (B-segment) vehicles that are designed and engineered for developing markets — and Ford’s Ka concept is exactly this kind of vehicle.

Revealed today at Ford’s Northeast Industrial Complex in Camaçari, Brazil, the subcompact hatchback concept offers a preview of a new kind of entry-level vehicle urban consumers for Brazil and other key emerging markets around the world. But the Ka Concept is only a concept in name only, as the vehicle has already been photographed undergoing testing in almost the exact same form as what we see here. In other words, it seems that the Ka Concpet is nearly ready for full-scale production. Even Ford says so, stating that the “Ka Concept expands Ford’s portfolio of compact car offerings”, and that it serves as “a strong precursor to an all-new global compact car from Ford, a vehicle such as the Ka Concept could launch in 2014”.

Previously, the Ford Figo — itself a slightly modernized Fiesta from two generations ago — has been Ford’s subcompact hatch offering in developing markets. But considering that global demand for vehicles in the sub-B compact segment is expected to increase to roughly 6.2 million units by 2017, a growth of 35 percent from 2012 to 2017, it’s clear why Ford wants something more modern to offer to those customers. The necessity of a competitive sub-B segment compact is emphasized by the fact that the 35 percent growth in the segment thanks to demand from urban customers in developing markets far outpaces the overall industry growth rate of 12 percent.

“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 Motor Company, who was on hand to unveil the new concept vehicle. “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.”

Notably, the introduction of the Ka concept signals the death for the current Ford Ka sold in Europe. That city car is based on the Fiat 500 platform and hasn’t seen much sales success in the region.

Back to the new Ka concept: when if produced, the concept will feature class-leading fuel economy, a roomy interior with comfortable seating for five, best-in-class air conditioning, and a host of useful technologies such as a central docking station for mobile devices and Ford SYNC. These amenities are important for compact car buyers who are demanding an ever more robust package of features at an attainable price.

The design of the Ka Concept features many global Ford design cues, such as the trapezoidal front grille and detailed surface lines that reflect the design DNA of Ford’s next generation of global vehicles. Design highlights include a raked hood, bold and elongated headlamps, sweeping curved lines moving from the front of the Ka to the rear to create a sense of movement, and a roofline that rises from the rear of the trunk lid, where a spoiler, accentuated lines, and large taillamps provide strong visual cues.

According to a Ford news release, the Ford Ka Concept features a best-in-class interior design with quality craftsmanship not often found in such an attainable vehicle. Innovative features include a shoe console side stowage that complements a device-docking station that will serve as the driver’s connection point to the world of mobility.

Notably, the Ka concept follows the highly-successful EcoSport subcompact crossover (with which the Ka Concept presumably shares some underpinnings), as the second vehicle developed by Ford Brazil.

The takeaway: the Ka concept is Ford’s critical entry into emerging markets such as South America and South Asia. Both of these will jointly make up 44 percent of the global sub-B compact vehicle segment by 2017.

“The Ka Concept positions Ford as a strong option and exemplifies the company’s One Ford pledge to serve customers in all markets with a full family of vehicles.”

Motrolix Founder with a passion for global automotive business strategy.

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