Monday, May 08, 2006

B-Segment, is it time for Ford to act? Or is it too late?

B-Segment cars are sub-compact usually hatchbacks and very popular around the world, because of their utility and economy. And there are few manufacturers that don't have models in this segment outside of the US. Even "American" Manufacturers build B-Segment cars. Like this Chevy Aveo, which is in reality is a Suzuki Swift. And I like many people have been anticipating the growth of this segment again in the US market. For several years Chevy and Toyota were the only B-Segment models available in the US.
But Honda sees potential for sales, and is moving to dominate this segment with their Fit 5 door hatch. Available in base of "Sport" trim, with 100 hp and achieving 40 mpg, it's reasonalbe to assume that Honda will be the class leader. I've seen several on the road already and they only landed on dealer lots April 20th. I walked around one in a parking lot, comparing it to the Subaru Impreza for size. The wheelbase is close as is overall lenght, being only slightly shorter. But it's amazing the sense of space available in the Fit. And in the Sport trim, it doesn't apear cheap at all.
Now Toyota doesn't want to miss out on the feeding frenzy, so they've replaced their Echo with a 3 door and 4 door Yaris. I haven't seen this on the road, although I was not impressed with what I saw at the Javits Center last month. But it will follow the Fit's basic formula of 100 hp and 40 mpg, and Toyota faithful will flock to it.
Now Ford, unlike GM, doesn't need to go to a partner for a model in this segment. Ford has built one for decades, 3 decades to be exact. The Fiesta available in 3 or 5 door hatch all over the world, with about 100 hp and 40 mpg. A perfect head to head competitor for the Fit/Yaris/Aveo and quite stylish too. I had the chance to see these up close a few years ago in Ireland, and they're sharp looking quality cars.
Toyota sold the Echo as a sedan body, and will bring a Yaris sedan to market as well. For some reason, marketing types believe Americans will prefer 4 door sedans to 5 door hatches.
Well Ford can handle that need if it arises. This Ford Ikon, is essentially a Fiesta sedan with trunk. Hell, Ford could be ready with almost any style of vehicle built on this chassis, 2 door sporty coupe like the Reflex and Puma, 3 and 5 door hatch, 4 door sedan, 5 door mini SUV or MPV (Fusion/EcoSport) and pickup (Courier/Bantam.) All are currently built by Ford around the world.
But with the Yaris and Fit here now and the aggressive marketing going on now, can Ford get a quality Fiesat to Market soon enough? Will this be a short lived fad, or is there a long term market for B-Segments?

Ford's last B entry in the US market was the Festiva/Aspire which the company brought out, didn't market or support and let die. Ford knows how to build good cars, it just seems that they dont' know what to do next. What do you think?


Joel A said...

I don't know how these cars will do in the current market. I wrote a post on one of my blogs about how Americans won't go for such cars.

IH said...

well the Fit is a sellout hit .. I am not sure about the Yaris (but the yaris is mediocre at best and seems to fail to attract young buyers (unless they are dragged in by their parents)..

I think Ford will have a tough time, but I believe they will use the extra year they gave themselves and make the cars better.. the Fiesta cars weredue out next Fall, but got pushed back a year (along with all other releases. as Fields works with marketing and R&D teams to define a Ford "look" - Fields seems unhappy with the Dave look..

alternatively.. really .the Focus is cheap enough to compate with al lof these cars on price.. and is bigger.. and given the new comparison group its inerior is no worse than theB-segments' ...

However its larger and heavier body fails to provide comparable fuel economy (which is to be expected)...


Anonymous said...

read today that Dodge is looking for partner to build the hornet for US sales. and isn't the Aveo a a Daewoo ?


Ryan said...

I've been waiting for ford to bring the 3/5 door Fiesta here as I am in need of a second car. As for your comments remember that the Swift+, Aveo, Wave are Daewoos. I would be interested in a swift but not the crap that we get for NA. A real swift is cool, JDM. The fits in Canada are too expensive, 20,000 for a base sport. I can get a Mazda3 like you just bought for the same price. Thier are a lot of 3/5 door Yarii around, but have yet to see a Fit on the road. I really wish for a Ka Sport, or like you said a C1, but the duratorq, six speed wagon like the UK has. Also why does the Foucs wagon come with air con? It should be optional like the Mazda3, but the Mazda3 sport should also have the 2.0 for a cheaper base price.


Big Ford Fan said...

Joel, you may be right, but as gas prices have risen above $3 per gal and it's only May, who knows what may happen when gas hits $4 per gallon.

Igor, you raise a couple of good points. The "Dave" look is problematic and until that is sorted out we can't expect to see much new. Also the Focus prices have been slashed to the point that they do compete with these B-Segments, and that's going to be a bad thing long term. Ford may have done damage to the Focus range with all the discounts and stagnant design.

BobZoom, I had read that DCX was looking for a partner to build the Hornet in Europe for that market, not for the US. As for the Aveo being a Daewoo, I don't think so. I know it's the same car as the Suzuki Swift, but I'm not sure if there is a Daewoo connection.

Ryan (DRC), thanks for the input. It's important to see what our neighbors to the north are experiencing, as it could be a precursor for the US.
In New York at least I expect the Honda to outsell Toyota's Yaris, which I have yet to see one of on the road. As for price, that won't be the most important factor, as a fully equipped Fit can reach $18k, it's going to be the "It" factor, and the economy or "Green" factor.

If fuel costs stay above $3/gal forever, which I'm sure they will, the trend will eventually be toward smaller cars.

IH said...

Joe.. Aveo is Daewoo Kalos with a different Badge. While Suzuki was under GM, in US and Canada, Gm pressed it to sell rebadged Daewoos - In Europe most of US Suzuki's lineup is sold as Chevy.

and Hornet is rumored to come to the US as well.. but that is not confirmed.