Monday, August 28, 2006

Ford not so busy with the B's , while others move toward emerging segment

This is the year that many expected the B segment to get traction in the US market. A combination of high fuel prices and sticker shock was to see an invigeration at the "entry level" of the market. Honda brought their Fit micro wagon/hatch and that was to the benchmark even before anyone actually drove one. Others like the Hyundai Acent and Nissan Versa are here or coming soon from abroad and Detroit's resposne has been varied.

GM has been importing the Aveo from Korea and is the only "domestic" maker that has something in place. It's an unexciting model, but reviews have been mostly favorable. It may not be perfect, but it's the only solid move from the "big 3."
Hopes had been that DCX would bring the Hornet concept to market in the US, with it's tough styling and superchared mini motor still anticipating near 40 mpg. Chrysler is shopping for a partner to build this, but it's still years off. And Chrysler's relying on the Dodge Caliber and it's Jeep siblings Patriot/Compass to give them something "fuel efficient" to offer.
Speculation recently was that FoMoCo would bring a version of the Mazda 2 to the US around 2008. But my question about this, is why? Why bring the Mazda 2 here, when there are plants in Latin America building Fiestas and other vehicles sharing components?
The Fiesta shares components with the Mazda 2, but in my opinion is a better looking car. And in Europe it outsells the Mazda, like it's larger brother Focus does the 3. I suspect Mark Fields tends to think anything Mazda is the answer to FoMoCo's problems.
I know it seems unlikely with all of the stumbling in the "Way Forward" that new models will be introduced anytime soon. But when FoMoCo does get it's ducks in a row, it needs to bring something exciting to market. Something that will be distinctly American, yet attract import buyers as well. Key factors will be economy, styling, utility and cost.
Economy and cost can be served by basing several models on a common platform (Fiesta) using Ford powerplants from their overseas markets. The Ford Faction Concept, as I've stated before, would be a great counterpoint to competitors such as the Caliber and Versa. And when Ford can get their European Diesels to pass US Emissions, they can slide right into these new models.
The recent Bronco concept was to be built on such a chassis with all wheel drive and a Diesel from the Fiesta range. Just think how segment busting such a model could be! The rugged retro styling, with soft road capability and Diesel economy, would be uniquely American and green.

Ford has been showing concepts for the last few years that have gotten major recognition and interest. Just look at the Reflex! A 2 door sporty coupe, powered by a Diesel-Hybrid powertrain that could achieve 65 mpg!

Yet what will be get if Ford survives to bring a B segment model? We'll get a stripped Mazda 2 if we're lucky.

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