Ford’s Ka is key to expansion in new emerging markets image

We just saw the official unveil of a four-door Ka concept in Brazil yesterday, and now it’s time to discuss the consequences of this model for the future of the US company.

It actually looks like the launch of the production model aimed at emerging markets next year, could prove 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 yesterday to showcase the 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.

“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 also said.

The Ka 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.

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

The global Ka will rival in Brazil the VW Polo, Fiat Uno and Chevrolet Onix, Ford said. The redesigned Ka does not have a touch screen but has a docking station to accommodate a smart phone, allowing the driver to view navigation and other features.

Via Reuters