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Is this the right Ka for Ford Australia?

Blue Oval baby: Ford's MkII Ka lands in the UK priced from around $A19,000.

Ford Australia’s new boss would like the new-generation Ka, but can he afford it?

4 Nov 2008

FORD has revealed pricing for its all-new Ka light car in Britain and, while direct comparisons are difficult, it would appear that finding a suitably low starting price for Australia might be problematical.

Ka II will go on sale in the UK in January priced from 7995 pounds ($19,040) for the base 1.2-litre model to 10,195 pounds ($24,280) for the 1.3-litre turbo-diesel.

The starting price is about $1700 less than a (better-equipped) entry-level Fiesta in the UK and, if Ford Australia could similarly undercut the Fiesta’s local starting price of $15,990, that would be a very competitive position.

But comparisons are difficult because the Australian and UK model ranges barely cross over.

Ford’s new light car is built on the same platform as the Fiat 500 and will compete directly with the Italian car in the UK, but in Australia the 500 has a starting price of some $22,990 – a level that few potential Ka buyers would consider.

New Ford Australia president Marin Burela led the development of the company’s global small-car product portfolio from 2004 until his posting back home a few months ago and is therefore a fan of the new Ka (as well as the new-generation Fiesta that will launch here in early 2009).

Mr Burela went as far as telling GoAuto at the recent Paris motor show, where the production Ka made its world debut, that he would love to get it to Australia because it is a “stunning” car.

27 center imageBut that was before he had even lobbed here, so he has plenty of get-out clauses while maintaining enthusiasm for a car that it must be said is certainly less visually polarising than the first-generation car that arrived in Australia without an auto transmission and flopped when it was sold here from 1999 to 2003.

And Mr Burela should be well-positioned to negotiate a deal with the Polish plant that builds the Ka alongside the Fiat 500.

“I think Ka would fit nicely in the Australian landscape,” Mr Burela told us in Paris. “I think it is a great city car. I think that the package is incredibly in tune with today’s needs and wants for its consumer group.

“Is it relevant to Australia? I think that any small vehicle in the industry is now relevant to Australia, as a result of the shift in the industry in Australia, but I don’t know (if it will arrive) – we will have to wait and see.

“We will now have to go away and work out whether or not it really makes economic sense, and whether the market will really be there for us.” Ford Australia has rarely had success selling small cars and, although the Fiesta has performed well this year – up 16.4 per cent while the segment overall is up only 3.4 per cent to the end of September – it comes off a very small base (5.4 per cent of the light car market).

The company would also have to find of way of marketing Ka and Fiesta alongside one another, a challenge that could be more problematical than in the high-volume mini-car markets of Europe, where the competition from Asian producers is also less pronounced.

An Australian-spec Ka would almost certainly have to come here with the 1.4-litre petrol engine option, mated to a standard five-speed manual gearbox or Fiat’s Dualogic semi-automatic as an option.

The base model in the UK comes with electric power-assisted steering, height-only steering wheel adjustment, ABS brakes, two airbags, a six-speaker iPod-compatible audio system – and only manual mirrors and windows.

Buyers have to spend an extra 1000 pounds ($2380) to get electric front windows and mirrors, central locking and air-conditioning – items that are regarded as basic in Australia.

Read more:

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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