Bye-bye Brazil, Hello China?
By Igor Holas
Last week Ford unveiled a concept of a new small car – the Ford Verve, the first of three upcoming small car concepts; Verve very closely indicates the future Ford small car. While we can simply call the new car “Fiesta 8,” there is an underlying significance to this model – it will be the first truly global Fiesta ever, and the first truly global Ford car since the 1999 Focus and 2000 Escape/Maverick.
Europe will be able to see their production version of the car in Geneva in spring, and will be able to buy the car as a three or five-door hatchback by this time next year. In US, we will see our concept (as five-door hatch) in January, and a production version will be revealed a year later. The car will begin production in April 2009 as a five-door hatch and a sedan.
Until now it was widely believed that the car will be built in the new Ford Brazil plant in Camaçari. This state-of-the-art production site has the ability to build some 10 models at the same time, has an excellent quality track record, and excellent union relationships. However, it is already running at capacity and it was unclear to observers how Ford would increase the output from this plant; regardless, there were no other obvious options.
All that changed yesterday. During a speech at the opening ceremony of a new development center in China, Alan Mulally, Ford CEO, clearly stated that not only will the new Verve be produced in a new just-opened Chinese plant, but that export is “a possibility.” He did not specify the direction of such shipments, but clearly stated that in the competitive world of global automakers, ignoring the export opportunity of Chinese manufacturing sites would be a mistake.
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