Ford is cutting production of the Ka. Sales are slower than expected.
Ford built 121,882 Kas in the first half of 1997 at its plant in Valencia, Spain. Now, it will reduce the rate from 240,000 units a year to 200,000, said Matthew Taylor, the new CEO of Ford Espana.
Ka sales in Western Europe were running at an annual rate of about 175,000 in March, April and May, according to Automotive News Europe calculations. The Ka was introduced last fall.
Taylor told journalists at a press launch for the Puma that the Ka was not selling as well as expected in Germany and France.
Last fall, Ford France projected sales of 30,000 Kas for 1997. Sales in the first half were 10,273.
Still, French dealers are optimistic. 'It takes some time for the people to know it,' said Christophe Cormier, top sales executive for Mustiere Automobile, a Ford dealership in Nantes. 'The market should explode in the last four months of the year.'
Cormier said Mustiere planned to sell 515 Kas in the first half, and sold 507. 'Ford is doing well compared to the general market in France,' he said.
Overall, Ford was down 12 percent in the first half, but the market was down 25 percent. The Ka and the Fiesta, on which it is based, had 4.1 percent of the market this year, while the Fiesta had 3.8 percent a year earlier.
In Germany, Ka sales are running about 10 percent behind the 80,000 Ford expected last September. However, the price is holding up for German dealers.
'No discounts are necessary to sell this product, except the usual 3 percent for cash payment,' said Ford dealer Peter Burgmeier in Viernheim.
German dealers say customers love or hate the Ka. Some who planned to buy larger cars switched to the Ka because they liked its looks.
Dealers think the Ka attracts different buyers than the Fiesta. For example, the Ka attracts more male buyers than the Fiesta does, said Egon Kruse, managing director of Autohaus Riederwald, a dealership in Frankfurt.
Women are the leading Ka buyers in Nantes. Cormier said 60 percent of his buyers are women. Ages range from 20 to 82.