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Ford Ka prospects rise

On a roll: Ford's Ka may make a re-appearance in Australia on the back of strong Fiesta sales.

Ford says the Fiesta’s sales success may pave way for the Ka’s return to Australia

3 Mar 2009

FORD is still investigating the possibility of launching the second-generation Ka in Australia.

The news comes hot on the heels of the success of the WS Fiesta range, which – according to Ford – is experiencing exceptionally strong customer demand around the world, including in Australia.

Speaking to GoAuto at the Melbourne International Motor Show last week, Ford Australia president Marin Burela revealed that the European sub-B light car was still in with a chance for a launch in Australia.

However, the lack of an automatic gearbox is the biggest hurdle holding the Ka II from release in Australia, although an automated manual gearbox identical to the one in the Fiat 500 is believed to be in development.

Fiat builds the second-generation Ka at its Tychy plant in Poland, alongside the 500 and Panda light cars all three vehicles share the same basic undercarriage and drivetrain components.

“I was responsible for bringing the (latest) Fiesta to the Ford world as well as the Ka, so I have a very big soft spot for both cars,” he said.

“We haven’t decided, is the honest answer. And the reason why is that the Ka in its current configuration only comes in a manual mode.”

Ford Australia had its fingers burnt already with the Ka, as the original version was sold here in smaller-than-preferred numbers from 1999 to 2003.

27 center imageLeft: Ford Ka and Chevrolet Spark (bottom) at the 2009 Detroit motor show.

A lack of an automatic gearbox was the biggest hindrance to success, along with divisive styling, a lack of a five-door model, and modest power from a 43kW 1.3-litre OHV engine dating back to the 1959 Anglia 105E in an era of relatively cheap fuel.

Mr Burela went on to reveal that Ford Australia is still in the middle of rolling out the Fiesta range, and will concentrate on getting its fully establishing its first real success in the light car market since the Kia-supplied Festiva of the 1990s disappeared from new-car listings during 2000.

“We’ve decided to wait until we have fully launched the Fiesta message, that we get that out into the market, and once we have done that, we will take a closer look at whether the Ka is the right product for Australia.

“You never say never in this business, particularly if you love the vehicle, but we will have to wait and see.

“I’d love to have every single Ford car (available overseas) here. But the reality is that the Australian market is 950,000 to one million units per year, and there is only so much space for different types of product. So we need to be very strategic, very tactical, and make sure we have the right cars, at the right time, for consumers to get what they want.

“The lack of an auto (in the Ka) would just minimise or reduce the appeal and maybe the volume.

“But at the same time, we brought the Fiesta in with all manual (gearboxes, initially), and people walked into the showrooms, and were driving straight out. Demand is outstripping supply. And we’ve just brought the automatic in, although we showed the car for the first time (in Australia) last October.”

Mr Burela admitted Ford had been caught out by the strong consumer reaction to the Fiesta, and that he was attempting to increase the supply of cars to Australia from Cologne in Germany, although European demand for the model had far exceeded expectations.

“It was only a few days ago that I was talking to my European colleagues about how we can get more cars into Australia.

“The Fiesta (in Europe) is absolutely outselling everything ... and the plant is running at full production,” he said.

Read more:

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Ford Ka tiny tot is back on the cards for Australia

First look: Ford lets its new Ka out of the bag

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