Ford's Tiny New Car Could Be a Big Seller

Ford unveiled the Ka Concept in Brazil on Wednesday. The company is expected to begin producing it in 2014. Photo credit: Ford Motor Co.

It looks like a Fusion that shrunk in the wash, doesn't it? It's actually a preview of a new Ford that could turn out to be a big deal in some far-flung markets.

The Ka Concept, as it's called, is Ford's latest "concept" car. It was revealed on Wednesday at an event in Brazil by the highest-ranking Ford official of them all, Executive Chairman Bill Ford.

Sometimes, when an automaker shows a concept car, it's just an idea, something meant to showcase a new technology, or a new design direction for a brand. That's the traditional idea behind the term. But I put the word "concept" in quotes above because often, a Ford "concept" is a thinly veiled (or not-at-all-veiled) preview of something they plan to produce. 

Ford dropped plenty of hints that its new Ka Concept falls into that latter category. It's clearly a preview of the 2015 Ford Ka. That makes it important. Here's why.

Despite its name, it originated fah from Bahston
The "Ka" -- it's pronounced like "cah," more or less -- is a tiny car that has been part of Ford's global lineup since 1996. Until now, it has always been a "three-door" -- two side doors and a hatchback -- marketed as an inexpensive, low-cost city car. 

An updated version of that original 1996 model is still made in Brazil and sold throughout Latin America. There's also a somewhat newer version, made in a Fiat factory in Poland, and sold in Europe. But neither is a modern, global Ford product.

This car appears to change that. Like its namesake predecessors, the Ka Concept is pretty small, one size down from a Fiesta. But it's very much a modern Ford, albeit a low-cost one.

The Ka Concept is quite small, but designed to maximize interior space. Photo credit: Ford Motor Co.

This Ka has five doors (counting the hatchback), and Ford says that it will comfortably seat five. And it has some amenities that urban folks in places like Brazil and India will appreciate: Ford bragged about its "best-in-class" air conditioning, and it's available with Ford's voice-activated SYNC infotainment system and a central docking station for smartphones and other mobile devices. 

Ford didn't say what kind of engine would power the Ka Concept. But it's clear from what Ford did say that the Ka Concept follows the winning approach that Ford has taken with global models up and down its product line: offer premium features in a well-thought-out package. 

We can safely assume that it will follow the rest of that approach when it comes to market: Ask a premium price, and ensure a good profit for Ford.

You might never see one in the U.S., but it should be a big seller
The Ka was developed by a Ford team in Brazil. It's their second all-new global Ford model. The first, the small EcoSport SUV, will eventually be rolled out to 62 countries, Ford says. It's already on sale in China and India (where it has been a surprise hit), and was recently launched in Russia and Western Europe.

The Ka Concept was developed by the same team that created the Ford EcoSport, which has been a hit in several major overseas markets. It's shown here in Moscow, where it recently went on sale. Photo credit: Ford Motor Co. 

It's not yet official, but Ford dropped some big hints on Wednesday that something very close to the Ka Concept will go into production in 2014. Cars in the global "sub-B" segment -- one size down from what we call a subcompact, like the Fiesta -- are expected to be big sellers in Latin America and South Asia in coming years, Ford says. It may never make it to the U.S., but I expect the production version of the Ka to follow the EcoSport's path to major markets around the world.

That won't hurt Ford's bottom line at all. The Ka Concept is clearly aiming to be a premium offering in that low-cost segment, just as the Fiesta and Focus are in the next two segments up the size ladder. 

Given how well it builds on Ford's well-proven product formula, it looks like Ford could have another global hit on its hands.

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Fool contributor John Rosevear owns shares of Ford. You can connect with him on Twitter at @jrosevearThe Motley Fool recommends Ford and owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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