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Ford Australia says no to Ka+

Minus plus: The Brazilian-designed, Indian-built Ford Ka+ will sign on for duty in Europe and the UK later this year, but not Australia.

Indian-built Ford Ka+ budget hatch a non-starter in Australia’s ailing micro market

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Ford logo9 Jun 2016

By RON HAMMERTON

FORD Australia can’t see the plus in the Ka+ and consequently has said thanks but no thanks to a local launch for the Indian-built entry-level five-door hatchback.

Instead, the Thai-built Fiesta light hatchback will be as low as it goes for Ford’s local division as it resists the temptation to get involved in the struggling micro-car market in Australia.

Besides, it is having enough trouble selling the Fiesta lately, with sales of the ageing model down 42.8 per cent this year.

Ford Motor Company is in the process of introducing Ka+ in Europe where it is set to replace the Polish-built three-door Ka hatch that shared a platform with the Fiat 500.

Developed by Ford Brazil, the new 1.2-litre Ka+ shares its architecture with the Fiesta and, consequently, is about 266mm longer than the previous Ka.

In Europe and the UK, where it is due to enter showrooms in October, it will be offered as a cheaper and more rudimentary alternative to Fiesta, which is one of the top-selling light cars in that market.

In Australia, however, cheap petrol and discounted cars from the one-size-bigger light-car class have derailed the micro-car class in which the Ka+ would likely be slotted, giving Ford Australia serious misgivings about bothering with that low-end segment.

According to Ford spokesman Martin Gunsberg, the company has no plans to introduce the Ka+ here, as the business case does not stack up.

So far this year, the Australian micro-car segment is running 27.3 per cent behind its sales tally for the same period of last year. And that’s on top of a 32.3 per cent plunge in 2015.

To the end of May, just 3297 micro hatchbacks such as the Mitsubishi Mirage, Holden Spark and Fiat 500 have been sold in Australia, even though the segment has been given a boost by fresh players such as the second-generation Spark and new Kia Picanto.

By contrast, the light-car segment has achieved 37,087 sales, and while that is down 16.2 per cent, it continues to be the second biggest segment in the sedan and hatch passenger-car market in Australia.

Ford’s Fiesta is one of the smaller players in the segment, achieving just 1199 sales so far this year – well behind the Hyundai Accent (6586), Mazda2 (5908), and Toyota Yaris (5174).

Ford has a new Fiesta in the development pipeline in Europe, but it is unlikely to surface in Australia before the second half of next year.

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