Ford Verve Concept Unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show
Almost certainly the new Fiesta for the rest of the world, but what will it be called in America?
By Brendan Moore
There is little suspense over what this car will be called in the rest of the world, as it is widely assumed that it will be the next-generation Fiesta. And although Ford is insisting on calling it a concept vehicle, there is also little doubt that this car is very close, if not identical to the production model that will hit the lots in the rest of the world. The only difference is that the four-door shown here in Detroit has a slightly different front fascia than the car shown in Europe, which may still be identical to the production model, but perhaps identical only to the production model that will be sold in North America.
Ford is being awfully coy about the engine in the Verve, but it’s a pretty safe bet that the car will come with a full range of gasoline and diesel engines globally, and that the U.S. specification cars will get at least two, and possibly three of Ford’s new advanced EcoBoost four-cylinder engines, that will put out anywhere from 150 HP to a possible (yikes!) 275 HP.
In terms of what it looks like, I’ve seen it twice now, and I think it’s a great-looking car. The coupe is better-looking than the sedan, but both cars are better-looking in the metal than in the photos, and that’s saying something. The interior is also a big step up from the lower-level cars we’ve seen from Ford here in the States in the past. We are finally getting the interior goodness that Ford’s customers in Europe have been enjoying on some of their models for the past few years.
Ford is expecting a warm reception for the Verve (or whatever else its called in the U.S.) when it shows up in 2010. According to Ford:
– New Ford Verve small car concept showcases the style, technology, premium materials and more substantial content that will set it a part from other offerings when Ford’s new small cars go on sale in North America in 2010.
– Four-door Verve is designed to appeal to “Millennials,” the fastest-growing segment of the population, as well as their parents – with sophisticated technology and expressive design demanded by globally savvy customers.
– A European three-door Verve concept also is being displayed at the North American International Auto Show to test North American reaction to an alternative bodystyle.
– In the U.S., small-car sales are predicted to increase by more than 25 percent through 2012. Small cars and crossovers are the only vehicles with projected near-term growth in the U.S.
That’s Ford’s plan, and there is no denying that they need one of their plans to work out in a big way if they’re going to claw their way back to financial solvency anytime soon. It would be icing on the cake if they make their plan in the small-car segment in the U.S. work, because that segment promise to be where a lot of action is in the foreseeable future.
One thing you have to cede to Ford is their confidence that this time they have gotten the small car right with the Verve concept. Ford says that:
“The Ford global design team remembered, not so fondly, the econo-boxes of the 1970s and created the Verve concept as a vision of just how good a small car can be,” said J Mays, Ford’s group vice president of Design and chief creative officer. “Verve aims to ‘right’ North American buyers’ earlier small-car experiences by offering a product that changes customers’ views of small cars from ‘cheap’ to chic – and from affordable to desirable.”
The Verve concept is built off of a design architecture flexible enough to yield three distinctive vehicles that are each recognizably Ford. The flexible design architecture also allows Ford to adapt quickly to rapidly changing customer tastes and will help the company enter new markets utilizing regionally tailored products off of a common platform.
Well, we’ll see if Ford’s confidence is justified when we get to drive the Verve, but, obviously, the competition in the market will be very, very tough. Although the European market is fairly well demarcated along A-class, B-class, C-class and D-class cars in terms of size and price, with shoppers more or less staying within a very specific size range, here in America, a “small” car means different things to different people. So someone looking for a small car may look at a four-cylinder Honda Fit, a four-cylinder Chevrolet Malibu, a four-cylinder Toyota Yaris, a four-cylinder VW Rabbit (Golf) or a four-cylinder Nissan Versa. Some of these are different size cars, but to an American accustomed to 14 MPG trucks and SUVS, all of those cars seem small and thrifty. If they live in a city, they might even look at a Smart car, which is far smaller than the Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris. So, basically, the Verve would compete against any other car that Americans deemed as a “small” car, which means it will be competing against some very, very tough opponents for buyers.
I hope the Verve is a success – not because I’m a Ford booster, but I want Ford to stick around for my own selfish reasons, that is, the fact that Ford cars provide yet another choice for auto enthusiasts in the marketplace, and that’s always a good thing.
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