By on July 27, 2019

Two months and change after Ford Motor Company ceased production of North America’s smallest Blue Oval vehicle, Europeans are waking up to news that their tiniest offering has a date with death.

The Ka+, a name this writer can’t read without imagining a Bostonian pronouncing the word “car,” will disappear from the marketplace thanks to —what else? — fuel economy regulations that disproportionately impact small vehicles.

Some of the blame goes beyond zealous European lawmakers, known for refreshing emissions and efficiency regulations with the regularity of a teen posting Facebook updates. It also goes beyond the complex math behind rules like CAFE and their overseas equivalent.

Ford’s European business is in triage mode. After a lengthy period of unprofitability, workforce cuts, model culls, plant closures, and sure-thing introductions of mostly heavier, less efficient vehicles have become the norm as Ford attempts to turn around a sinking sector. With this in mind, it’s no surprise the automaker plans to drop its smallest vehicle ahead of new, more stringent emissions rules.

The updated regulations poised to land in 2020 would hit the Ka+ hard, a Ford spokesman told Automotive News, “making it less attractive to customers in a competitive segment.” Due to the low profit margin of small cars, especially those in the “city” class, updating such models with pricey fuel-saving technology doesn’t make much sense — certainly not for an automaker attempting to shore up a weak point in its business. (It’s worth noting that Ford’s triage efforts are bearing fruit — the company’s European business posted a profit in the second quarter of 2019.)

So, just as the North American Ford Fiesta bit the dust in May, the Ka+ will stop flowing to European dealers in September, the spokesman said.

Sporting four doors, a liftback, and Indian origin, the Ka+ is the successor to the diminutive Ka three-door that appeared on European streets in the late 1990s. Two engines are on offer: a 1.2-liter gas three-cylinder and a 1.5-liter diesel triple. The lowest combined fuel economy of the model’s range is the 43.5 mpg offered by the 1.2-liter Active variant. Auto stop-start comes standard.

Oh sure, there’ll eventually be an electric replacement to bolster Ford’s green cred, but don’t hold your breath waiting for a gas-free entry-level economy car that starts at roughly $14,000 U.S.

While Europeans come to grips with another example of the small car decline — Ford’s hardly alone in scrapping subcompacts — these buyers can at least find solace in the fact that the Fiesta and Focus, as well as their lifted or boosted offspring, remain in the catalogue. Americans can’t say the same.

[Images: Ford of Europe]

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53 Comments on “Ford’s Small Car Purge Continues Apace...”


  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Second picture – someone left the barcode on that building.

  • avatar
    MBella

    Getting rid of small cars for fuel economy. It seems like the laws are working.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      As long as you understand that the real purpose of the laws is to bump people out of the independence provided by car ownership and employment.

      • 0 avatar
        JD-Shifty

        the rich and powerful don’t want people working for low wages and buying their products? ok bud

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          Ford’s trimming of their low margin products is the sensible response to a world where global trade policy is changed due to a Twitter hissy-fit.

          Low margin products only make sense in a stable world. Volatility requires bigger margins.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Do you honestly think that Trump is causing the cataclysms bringing the auto industry to the brink of failure? Is he the one that wants to replace mature products with ones that haven’t been proven to be profitable or demanded by customers? I get it that you don’t have good tools to work with, but surely you’re more capable than that.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            I think Trump is causing car companies to batten down the hatches for an upcoming storm, the nature and timing of which the executives cannot predict — except that volatile trade policy (up to and including the repeal of NAFTA) will be part of it.

            You can’t get the future of your company on low margin products with globally sourced inputs when the nature of your business can be changed overnight by a 25% tariff on steel, or something like that. In a high capital business, therefore, the low margin products, therefore, must be eliminated.

            However, about half of their American customers are Trump fans, so they’ll never connect the dots in public (especially at Ford, because F-150).

        • 0 avatar
          AtoB

          “The rich and powerful don’t want people working for low wages and buying their products?”

          Preferable is for “people” (if you can call them that) to work for NO wages making products solely for the rich and powerful to enjoy.

        • 0 avatar
          AtoB

          “The rich and powerful don’t want people working for low wages and buying their products?”

          Preferable is for “people” (if you can call them that) to work for NO wages making products solely for the rich and powerful to enjoy.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          The rich and powerful have provided their serfs with cheap mass transit. The R&P can control that, but they can’t control international automakers or oil companies.

      • 0 avatar
        Peter Gazis

        Vehicles are lasting longer, and more people are leasing. Resulting in a high supply of good quality used cars.

        The need for small penalty box vehicles like the Ford Ka+ has diminished.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          That’s probably true in America. In Europe’s ancient, crowded cities and narrow rural road network, combined with high taxes, the nimble, economical small car has a useful function.

      • 0 avatar
        Peter Gazis

        Vehicles are lasting longer, and more people are leasing. Resulting in a high supply of good quality used cars.

        The need for small penalty box vehicles like the Ford Ka+ has diminished.

    • 0 avatar

      “Getting rid of small cars for fuel economy. It seems like the laws are working.”

      Laws of nature work flawlessly. It is called Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle: smaller car has more uncertain fuel economy. For such a small car as Ka+ fuel economy violently fluctuates. Quantum world of European microscopic objects like Ka+ is paradoxical for us living in macroscopically large US where everything is huge compared to Europe but thats how our Universe works.

    • 0 avatar
      dantes_inferno

      Wait — Ford still makes cars???

  • avatar
    ravenuer

    “…with the regularity of a teen posting Facebook updates…”.
    heh, heh, heh.
    Now, you KNOW whose name you could substitute for “teen”, right?

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Also, I think someone needs to update their social media references. I’m too old to know what the youth are using now, but I know Facebook has been overrun by the olds.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    Teens do not do Facebook. Their parents, maybe.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    A and B segment cars ha e NEVER been MPG competitive when compared to the C segment choices.

    The Chevy Spark is really no better than the Sonic was, which was not much better than a Cruze, and worse than a Cruze Eco.

    The Toyota Yaris suffered the same problem from the Corolla sitting next to it.

    Same with Fiesta and Focus.

    YES, you can get all pedantic and point out the Focus RS got worse MPG than the 3 pot Fiesta. That isn’t the comparison and someone worried about MPG and buying on a budget isn’t cross shopping these two configurations.

    Another A segment example was the smart4two, also the Fist 500 and the deficit Scion iQ.

    You reach a point if diminishing returns when focused on MPG, and for the Sonic and Yaris, the respective Cruze and Corolla right next to it on the showroom floor.

    Then it comes down to fitting urban canyons.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Some of it comes down to flaws in the EPAs testing model. The only years I could find a meaningful number of Sparks on fuelly.com were 2013(86) and 2014(70). The Spark averages for those years were 35.2 mpg and 34.7 mpg compared to 30.8 and 33.5 for the Cruze. Factor in the increased likelihood that the Sparks were used in urban environments and advantage of the less expensive cars could be even larger. The reality is getting rid of small cars is about getting rid of affordable cars and has as little to do with saving fuel as any sentient being would assume.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Is the Ka really going away because of fuel economy standards? That would be hugely ironic. We don’t know though, because the TTAC writer has simply stated unsourced speculation as if it were fact. Never mind evidence, there’s a dig at Rules to be made!

    If it is true, then I imagine it would interest EU regulators in updating their formulas…which the writer says they update as often teens update their social media. Never mind that this blog itself is social media and its followers hardly outrank teens in the discourse department, there’s a dig at Kids to be made!

    Then TTAC’s best and brightest jump in. No, they say, it’s not about C02 emissions, or even Ford looking to focus on higher-margin vehicles. Rather, it’s part of an evil plot to kill affordable subcompacts. Why? Who needs reasons, there’s a dastardly conspiracy to be alleged!

    The Internet was supposed to make us all smarter and better informed. Can someone please fetch the time-traveling DeLorean, hustle back to 1990, and tell Tim Berners-Lee that IT ISN’T WORKING.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Small vehicles can be efficient, but they don’t have to be.

      Cheaping out in the design tends to work against efficiency.

      Case in point: some motorcycles are far less efficient than small cars, despite being much smaller and lighter. The reason is because nobody (including the engineers who designed them) cares how efficient those bikes are.

      I’ve noticed the same thing happens with the cheapest cheap cars, too.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      What’s unsourced speculation? The EU has published it’s 2020 regulations. The Ka doesn’t meet the new standards. It takes more than a few adjustments to meet the new emissions standards. Ford is dropping the model rather than spend the money to upgrade a low profit margin vehicle.

      This is a news article, not a research paper with footnotes, sources, and links. If you want that, do your own research online. You’ll have no problem finding facts to back up the story.

    • 0 avatar
      Ce he sin

      To an extent. It costs as much to design a small car as a big one and it costs nearly as much to make one, but buyers expect to pay considerably less. Margins are therefore small. The Ka+ is a very slow seller anyway as buyers prefer to pay a bit more for a bigger and more upmarket feeling Fiesta. Add together all of these and you reach the conclusion that it’s not economic to make the Ka+ meet the upcoming CO2 regs and so it has to go. The VW Up is going the same way and for the same reasons.

  • avatar

    That article does not make sense to me. How low carbon emission regulations can push automakers to build more vehicle with higher fuel consumption. You cannot force Americans to drive cars like Fiesta and let alone Ka+, but Europeans are happy to drive micro cars because they are living in cramped cities and villages built in ancient times and also of general lack of resources.

  • avatar
    Steve203

    In typical big three fashion, Ford blames “government regulation”, for the withdrawal of the Ka+.

    Could it maybe be they are dropping the car because it is pathetically uncompetitive in it’s segment? In Q1 this year, Ford Europe shifted only 14,168 of them, ranking the Ka+ 14th in the segment, vs 64,906 Fiestas. The segment leader, the Renault Cleo, sold 85,275. Of course, the issue of car being uncompetitive would be owned by Ford, but can’t say management made a mistake.

    I notice the Ka+ is built in India. The Ecosport also failed miserably when they were sourced from India for the EU, but Ecosport sales improved dramatically when EU bound production was shifted to Romania, where the plant could tap into the higher quality European supply chain.

    UK bound Jeep Compasses are also sourced from India, and a couple tests of UK spec Compasses I have seen complained loudly about the lousy build quality. When FCA announced they would start building the Compass in Italy for the EU market, they noted that the Italian plant will also take over producing the RHD version for the UK.

  • avatar
    Garak

    The Ka’s going away because it’s just not good.

    The previous Ka had a 25% inspection failure rate at 5 years, an extremely bad number especially for a city car. They also depreciated at staggering rates.

    I don’t know about the reliability of the new Ka, but it also depreciates badly, got only 3 EuroNCAP stars, has mediocre fuel economy, and has a really garbage interior. It’s slow as slug even in its class, and there’s not even a properly adjustable steering wheel. I don’t think you can get an automatic with the gasoline engine – a serious problem as manuals are losing their market share even in Europe.

    It just isn’t a competitive vehicle in any way.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      An inspection failure rate? Like a headlight went out? What is causing so many to fail inspection, and moreover how and why is anyone keeping track of that.

      • 0 avatar
        Garak

        Cars have to be inspected in testing facilities every couple of years in most of Europe, and traffic safety boards keeps track of everything, of course. You need to waste taxpayer money somehow.

        The three most common failures for the Ka in Finland were:
        -Front axle (ball joints and bushings)
        -OBD error (Check Engine light, basically)
        -Springs or shock absorbers (I’d guess leaky shocks)

        In comparison, the Fiesta of same model year had only a 9% failure rate, and the Focus just 4,2%.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve203

      >>It just isn’t a competitive vehicle in any way.<<

      That was my takeaway, from looking at the sales numbers. But US big three management never, ever, takes responsibility for it's mistakes. It always blames either the government, the Japanese, or the union.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      The Ecosport isn’t competitive either but yet they seem to be selling plenty of those.

      I just think that it’s part of the switch to CUVs. The silver lining of sorts for me is that the temptation to purchase a new vehicle is much lower that it used to be. I’m going on year 5 with my 2015 Honda Accord now, and just invested in new brakes and tires.

      I used to buy a new car every 3 years. There’s a few good offerings but nothing has been tempting enough to make me want to take the plunge. I’m going to see if I can get a car I bought new up to 100k, for the first time in my life.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        >>The Ecosport isn’t competitive either but yet they seem to be selling plenty of those. <<

        The jump in Ecosport sales in Europe coincides exactly with the start of production in Romania. When the Ecosport was sourced in India, European sales ranged from 40.084 in 2015 to 63.150 in 2017. Production in Romania started in October of 2017. EU sales in 2018 were 110.574, a 75% increase, and, so far, 2019 sales are continuing at that increased pace.

        FCA's plan for the Compass was to serve all RHD markets, including the UK, from production in India, while the rest of the EU was supplied from Mexico. With the announcement last winter that Compass production for the EU would be started at the Melfi plant in Italy, they announced that sourcing for UK market RHD models would also be at Melfi, rather than India.

        So there are two votes, the Ecosport and the Compass, that Indian production is not up to European standards, and it's worthwhile to pay the higher costs of European production to build a better quality product.

  • avatar
    civicjohn

    EU, enjoy your car options moving forward. Maybe this “Ka” wasn’t right for your market, but increasingly, you won’t be a part of that decision. You can thank Brussels for your transportation selections.

  • avatar
    JoeBrick

    The Ka+, a name this writer can’t read without imagining a Bostonian Mispronouncing the word “car,”
    Fixed that for ya…

  • avatar
    JoeBrick

    Indian carmaker Tata just announced a new electric-only car for the domestic Indian market. Contrary to popular belief, it will not be called the Bodacious Tata. It is not for highway driving, only city driving, because its range is only 85 miles. But since India does not have America’s asphyxiating regulations, the price will be only 200,000 Rupees, about $2900 US . It is time to tell our lawmakers to all go home and commit hari-kari. They have failed us. Of course, they never intended to help us, only LINE THEIR OWN POCKETS.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    This POS should never have been even developed.

    A rolling Ford, foreign parts assemblage flaming dumpster fire.

    *This is NOT to state that Ford is NOT being led (into the ground) by one of the most incompetent auto CEOs of all time, in the form of one Jim Hackett, former leader of a company designing and producing rectangular and square shaped desks and file folder cabinets, aided and abetted by one Jim Farley -‘another incompetent.

    Just change the name of Ford to F Series Co., and the dealership names to “The Ford Truck Store,” and be done with it already.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      You make sound like it’s a bad thing. Except some things are better left for those that that’s all they do (like build small cars), when that’s really all they good for.

      Can one automaker do it all? And excel at absolutely everything, in every segment?

    • 0 avatar
      Ce he sin

      The Ka+ isn’t in fact that bad, it’s just too small and cheap feeling compared to a Fiesta.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Steelcase’s stuff that they’ve had for years that just works is all gone, with goofy-looking LSD-trip garbage in its place! Seriously, everything in their catalog now looks like what you think of if someone says “what was the worst thing about the 1960s?”

      Was that under their former CEO? He certainly can’t Hackett now!

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    #DenverMike

    You are absolutely correct, that not even the best home runner has a 1.000 batting average. But if one pretends to play in the MLB, one should aim for a 0.300 average.

    What is going on with the former big-3, is that in the medium to small vehicle sector they are hitting below 0.100

    In that respect, it makes much sense to exit the markets in which you are no longer a major player, and concentrate on the markets in which you still are.

  • avatar
    scott25

    I didn’t even know that Ford ever brought the Ka back in house, I thought they were still using the Fiat 500 platform and building them both at the same factory, but that ended in 2016 according to Wikipedia

  • avatar
    cprescott

    The shift to nasty CUV’s and SUV’s happened long before Agent Orange took hold in the White House. Sadly, people think that these putrid things are the cat’s meow right now (I love how they can’t even navigate on and off ramps of an interstate at the speed my Hyundai loves to be driven).

    Sadly there are those who want trade policies that put America at a disadvantage . Decades of putrid agreements have shafted us and given us a false sense of cheap products that are produced by humans on starvation wages. I’m sure it feels good to be so inclined, but it is time that countries who don’t play by the same rules as us (labor, intellectual property rights, and environmental standards), get a taste of having to do so.


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