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Dual-clutch Ford Fiesta unveiled

Four doors: The North American Ford Fiesta sedan was unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Ford is set to offer its Powershift dual-clutch gearbox on the latest Fiesta

4 Dec 2009

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in LOS ANGELES

FORD surprised the Los Angeles Auto Show with a Powershift dual-clutch gearbox on the United States version of the latest Ford Fiesta, which includes a sedan for North America along with the five-door hatch sold elsewhere.

Co-developed with transmission specialists Getrag, the six-speed Powershift will be the ‘automatic’ gearbox alternative to the standard manual transmission when it goes on sale in North America in the middle of next year.

Powershift is also set to make its way on to other Fiesta models sold elsewhere in the world, including Australia.

It is the first gearbox alternative to the five-speed manual offered with the 1.6-litre Ti-VCT four-cylinder petrol engine that – in 88kW/152Nm in tune – is the mainstay powerplant on Australian-bound WS Fiesta range.

The Fiesta automatic in Australia uses the smaller 71kW/128Nm 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine mated to a conventional torque-converter four-speed automatic gearbox.

Whether Powershift will be introduced on the Australian 1.6-litre Fiesta towards the end of 2010 remains to be seen.

27 center imageFord's Mark Fields unveils the Fiesta hatch at the LA Auto Show.

The recently released Fiesta Econetic diesel is also in line to go to the dual-clutch option sometime in the future.

Ford is thought to be investigating Powershift for the Fiesta when the Thailand plant comes on stream in the next few months.

Except for the German-made Econetic, Australian Fiesta production will switch to Thailand from Germany soon after.

But several versions of the upcoming new-generation Volkswagen Polo will beat the Fiesta Powershift to market in Australia from early in the second quarter of next year.

The only Ford-badged Powershift model on sale in Australia for now is the Ford Focus TDCi, although the new 2.0D engine variant in the Volvo C30, S40 and V50 also receive the dual-clutch gearbox.

“Powershift is a really new thing,” Global marketing group vice-president Jim Farley told GoAuto.

“We have had it in Europe (on the Focus C-Max and others) but this is the first time we are seeing it here.

“It’s built with Getrag, and it’s really exciting … it is really efficient like a manual.

“But I won’t get into any details about how we are going to roll it out – but we have a very aggressive plan on how we are going to implement Powershift.

“Our vision is to be the fuel economy leader – and not just here in the US but also around the world with Fiesta and Focus.

“And to do that in automatic markets you have to have something like the Powershift transmission to be the leader.

“So we will progressively implement that technology.” Meanwhile, a number of other changes have been made to the US Fiesta since the current-generation car was introduced on the world market late last year.

Ford of the Americas president Mark Fields revealed that Ford US came to the program later than the rest of the world so took advantage of the one and a half year release-delay to instigate alterations that would make the Fiesta a more palatable package to Americans.

Much of this was ascertained over the past six months when Ford shipped 100 European-specification Fiestas to the US for hand-chosen ‘brand ambassadors’ and ‘taste makers’ known as the ‘Fiesta Movement’ to sample.

“We did a lot of research with (the Fiesta Movement) agents, and they told us quite a few things (that needed modifying) … some things like the front end and heating and cooling aspects were done for US homologation purposes,” Mr Fields said.

“And when we actually gave the cars to our agents here in the US they started telling us, and we started making as many changes as we could based on what they said.

“We changed the dome lamp in this car – it’s adjustable – and now we have one in the rear also we have a different seat adjuster – in Europe the adjuster is a round knob and in the US customers prefer a lever.

“So we made changes like that. We also covered the rear seat backs when you fold them down because Americans don’t like seeing the metal – in Europe customers are fine with our hatchback how it is, even though it costs a little more for the US model we put carpet on it.” Ford says that supply problems on models such as the popular Zetec have kept the Fiesta from fulfilling its full sales potential in Australia.

Nevertheless, Australian volume is up 35 per cent year to date, while the November results show a 134.5 per cent increase over the same month in 2008.

To date the Fiesta has 8.2 per cent share of the light-car segment to come in at number six overall, trailing the Toyota Yaris (19.6 per cent), Hyundai Getz (14.8), Mazda2 (13.4), Holden Barina (10.7) and Suzuki Swift (9.7).

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