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Ford Ka tiny tot is back on the cards for Australia

Ka congrats: Ford Motor Co CEO Alan Mulally (right) presents the Ka with Ford of Europe CEO John Fleming.

Ford’s new Ka mini will be studied under Marin Burela’s watch at Ford Australia

3 Oct 2008

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in PARIS

FORD Australia’s new president Marin Burela has revealed that the Ka light car could make a return to Australia.

Speaking to GoAuto this week on the sidelines of the Paris motor show, where the new-generation Ka made its world debut, Mr Burela said the all-new version of Ford’s sub-B segment light car has everything it takes to be a success in Australia.

“I love the vehicle,” he declared. “I think we’ve done a great job with it – just look at it. Its design is so stunning you can see it (on sale) in any market in the world.” However, with only a few days at the helm of Australia’s third-biggest car brand behind Toyota and Holden, Mr Burela would not confirm when a decision would be made on the Ka’s Australian future, or the estimated timeframe should the baby car get the go-ahead.

“I think Ka would fit nicely in the Australian landscape. 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,” he said.

“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. I can’t really give you any more than that.” Mr Burela said he would still need to settle into his new job before wholly assessing the Ka’s chances of success in Australia. Nevertheless, the one-time Geelong engineer indicated that he was extremely keen.

“Would I like to see it (in Australia)? I would like to see every Ford product in Australia,” he said.

“But we will now have to go away and work out whether or not (the new Ka) really makes economic sense, and whether the market will really be there for us.

“To me everything is an opportunity, and I think that we need to treat it as such, and we will have to just wait and see.”

27 center imageLeft: New Bond girl Olga Kurylenko with the Ford Ka at the Paris motor show.

Mr Burela’s enthusiasm for the new Ka comes as no surprise since, as previously reported, he led the development of Ford’s global small-car product portfolio from 2004 until his posting to Australia this month.

This included the Ka as well as the new-generation Fiesta that is currently being rolled out across Europe.

Buoying Mr Burela’s confidence in the new Ka is the fact that the previous Spanish-built model has achieved the highest customer satisfaction rate of any Ford product in Europe, as well as the most loyal customer base.

More importantly, since being launched in late 1996 to massive critical acclaim, it has consistently brought new customers to the brand, including those who would never have thought about buying a Ford before.

“It’s an iconic product, from a base of 1.4 million people who have bought one, and it’s the most loyal group of customers that we have, and we couldn’t disappoint them,” Mr Burela said.

Yet the first Ka fared poorly in Australia. Launched in late 1999 with a high price tag, three-door only packaging, and – most fatally – no automatic gearbox availability, it had little appeal to consumers who – unlike today’s global new-car buyers, according to Ford CEO Alan Mulally – did not prioritise economy or downsizing.

VFACTS figures show that only 5693 units were sold up until the end of 2003, when Ford dropped the Ka in preparation for the WP Fiesta out of Germany.

However, the latest version is a complete departure from its predecessor, with an association that is likely to further push the Ka along in the eyes of its mostly young demographic.

Co-developed by Fiat of Italy, the Ka II shares its architecture with the hugely successful new Fiat 500 – itself an icon with a great following. Both are built in the same production facility in Poland, and are derived mechanically from the Fiat Panda II that was launched in Europe in late 2003.

Yet the Ka II shares no body parts with either of its Italian cousins, has its own interior design, and has been heavily retuned to “drive like a Ford” according to one company insider.

For the moment, engine choices are the 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre petrol and 1.3-litre JTD turbo-diesel four-cylinder units sourced from the tiny Fiats, while gearbox choices are likely to be five and six-speed manual, as well as the Dualogic automated manual transmission with a ‘City’ auto mode.

Like the 500, the Ka also introduces a range of BMW Mini-style personalisation packages that represent a new marketing era for Ford, and – for Europe anyway – is co-branded with the next James Bond movie ‘Quantum Of Solace’.

With 12 years on sale and still going strong – especially in the United Kingdom – expectations are running high that the new car will continue on providing chic as well as cheap and cheerful motoring.

“(Europe) is the original home of Ka. This is where it started its journey. And our whole small focus was on ensuring that we had to deliver successfully in Europe,” Mr Burela said. “Where we go from there is now something that we need to think about.

“I think time will take care of it. Let’s just see how we go. Whether it makes it to Australia … we will have to wait and see.”

Read more:

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


The Road to Recovery podcast series


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