Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Honda Fit is coming in late April, when and how should Ford answer?

Recently there's been a lot of talk of the upcoming Honda Fit, the new B-Segment model positioned below the Civic. I've read about it recently on Jalopnik, AutoBlog and Edmunds including pricing and driving impressions. Honda sees the Civic as moving slightly up in size and price, and saw the need to have a new entry level model positioned to compete with new Korean and Chinese models. Nissan has the new Versa coming, and much has been made of GM's imported Chevy Aveo. I don't know how big this new market segment is going to be, but I do know that Ford needs to be there too.
It's been reported that Ford intends to bring a new B-Segment model based on the Fiesta/Mazda2. Now look closely at this Fiesta and the Fit above, they're very close in size and style. Ford has it's B-Segment model in their overseas lineup. The Fiesta comes in 3 and 5 door models, with 2 petrol and 2 diesel engines.
There's even an ST version with 150 hp! Now just to remind you, ST is Ford of Europe's version of SVT. 150 hp may not sound like a lot, but consider this models lower weight and price. This is comparable to a Fit Sport, which Honda is rumored to be bringing in later this year or next. There is even a mini MPV or SUV version called the EcoSport/Fusion and a pickup version the Bantam/Courier.
So what ever it takes, Ford needs to answer Honda's challenge and have product for the US market as quickly as possible. Wouldn't you want a sporty hatch that gets 40 mpg for under $20K ? Fiesta mechanicals can underpin niche models like the Bronco and Reflex also. Rumors had been that Ford is going to build a new plant in Mexico to produce Fiesta based vehicles. Smart money would make it a flexible production facility, with the ability to build 3 and 5 door Fiestas, EcoSports, Broncos and the new Reflex. Even if Ford only sells 30-40,000 of each model, the shared platform and production facility will share costs. Make all versions E85 ready from the start, and bring at least one of the Diesel powerplants. A Hybrid in the future couldn't hurt, but may not be necessary considering the economy of both petrol and diesel models.

When I was in Ireland a few years ago, I was able to see the Fiesta and Fusion up close, and they're nice little cars, I've already said I would be first in line to buy the Reflex if it is built. Now is the time to "drive American Innovation" not sit back and watch from the sidelines.

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