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RICK KRANZ

Ford's B-Max fails to make U.S. lineup

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

The Ford B-Max concept would have been a nice addition to the U.S. Fiesta line.

It's not going to happen.

Meanwhile, General Motors is planning a similar vehicle for the United States.

Ford calls the B-Max a multiactivity vehicle. It's a subcompact created off the Ford Fiesta's vehicle platform. It was unveiled this week at the Geneva auto show.

The concept has a tall roof, sliding rear doors, two rows of seats and a flat surface when the second seat is folded down. The second seat is not removable so the B-Max is a blend of crossover and minivan.

What makes the B-Max stand out is the lack of a B-pillar. When the side doors are open, there is a wide opening between the A and C pillars.

What makes the B-Max stand out is the lack of a B-pillar. When the side doors are open, there is a wide opening between the A-pillar and C-pillar. This obviously is a big asset for a small vehicle, especially for people living in urban areas.

Parking is difficult to find, tight parking spaces are common. Sometimes it's difficult to unload groceries, a large box, a baby buggy from the trunk or hatch opening, especially if the rear bumper is near the front bumper of the car behind.

With the B-Max, everything also can be unloaded through the wide side door opening onto the sidewalk -- a big flat-screen TV, several large Ikea boxes, a baby buggy. The front passenger seat also folds flat.

In terms of overall functionally, this makes perfect sense for a subcompact vehicle. Narrow door openings are eliminated.

I'm hearing General Motors is working on a similar vehicle for the United States, possibly using suicide doors in place of sliding doors. The subcompact is likely to be badged under GMC, similar in execution to the Granite concept unveiled in January 2010.

The B-Max would have been a nice addition to the Fiesta family. European sales begin in 2012, but the United States won't get the B-Max.

The reason? Ford already sells two Fiesta versions here, a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback. The fear is that B-Max would cannibalize those sales as well as sales of the Ford C-Max, a compact minivan due here in about a year.

Another issue: Ford says the B-Max would be expensive if it was sold here. No word on how expensive.

Automakers are looking for ways to give their future subcompacts functionality and an identity. Eliminating the B-pillar is the next step.

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