MEXICO CITY - Ford of Mexico finally has a small car to sell. And the company could add an even smaller one.
The Fiesta, imported from England, arrived last month at Ford's Mexican dealers. It starts at 81,300 Mexican pesos ($9,609), above the most affordable Chevy and the Volkswagen Pointer.
'We are targeting customers who want a subcompact but with all the comfort and features of a larger car,' said Jose Manuel Machado, president of Ford of Mexico.
He said he expects 65 percent to be the lower-priced 'base' and 'family' models and 35 percent to be 'fun' models. The target: young couples and singles between ages 25 and 40.
Ford is a latecomer to Mexico's 'subcompact' class, which commands about half of the nation's car sales. Volkswagen and Nissan long dominated the segment with the Beetle and the Sentra.
In recent years, GM has introduced the Opel-based Chevy Joy/Swing, and Volkswagen has peppered the market with other models.
'We are the last ones to introduce our subcompact car, but we have the best product of all,' said Machado. The Ford Escort is classified as a 'compact' in Mexico.
Machado said he expects Ford of Mexico to produce about 250,000 cars and trucks in Mexico this year - up from 246,089 last year. More than 83 percent were exported.
Ford sales in Mexico should rise to 120,000, up from the 98,116 sold in 1997, Machado said. He said he believes the local market will climb to 600,000 units, a 23 percent gain.
Despite the new Fiesta, Ford's market share will stay at 20 percent, Machado said. That is still well below his goal of 25 percent.
The missing ingredient?
'We are missing a vehicle under a category of 'popular' - one with 60 percent local content, priced below 80,000 pesos, made in Mexico and some more things,' said Machado.
In the past, Machado has discussed his hopes of selling the Ka, Ford of Europe's mini. He said the arrival of the Fiesta does not mean the Ka cannot come - but nothing is in the works now.