Did Premium City Cars Kill the Ford Ka?
However, while its styling may not have been to everybody’s taste, the car drove beautifully, courtesy of the Fiesta which was being built at the time, as both cars shared the same platform. This also allowed Ford to minimize development costs, and thus, they were able to make enough money, while selling the car at an honest price – a trend which has all-but disappeared nowadays, when everything just seems overpriced for what you`re getting.
But that`s enough about the old Ka, as the discussion topic here is the third generation car, which… is not going to happen. The question is why, since Ford nailed the formula with the first car, you`d think that in its third hypothetical incarnation, and with the latest advancements in the automotive industry, it would be even better.
The second generation Ka is so bland and uninteresting that it doesn`t even deserve an entire paragraph – it disappointed all those who owned and loved the original, and were expecting more of the same, but better and more advanced. However, in their quest to maximize profits and minimize their own investment, Ford made the very bad decision to base the second generation Ka on a car which was already starting to gain popularity in 2008 – the Fiat 500.
I`m sure you`ve read the reviews which go on and on about how the Ka is a little bit sharper to drive, and how its springs are slightly stiffer, or how Ford have managed to graft a totally different face onto what is basically the same body shape as the 500, and have made it good-looking, without resorting to ‘retro’. We expected a Ford to handle better than a Fiat, did we not?
The Blue Oval’s offerings are all excellent to drive, and while the Ka is not ‘their car’, strictly speaking, they've made tweaks that make the car ‘a bit better to drive than the 500’. However, aside from the marginally better driving experience, the second generation Ka is rather bland, and the all-important interior is extremely dull, compared to the 500’s.
Enough with the Fiat 500 comparisons, as I`m sure the idea is pretty clear.
All of the above begs the question: Why didn`t Ford develop the Ka themselves, the way they would have wanted, and why did they stray so far from what made the first Ka such a big hit?
Well, the only answer which springs to mind is that they did it on purpose, and they seem to have actually wanted the Ka to be above-average, but not much more. The people behind the car were clearly aware that the age of the cheap and functional city car was drawing to a close, and they seem to have deliberately steered away from making their Ka an aspiring premium car, like the hugely-popular 500.
The most successful city cars nowadays are no longer basic and as cheap as possible, and buyers are willing to pay more, to get the same kind of kit and level of luxury one would find in a car two classes above it. The only other car which is still on the market, still very good and still selling decently-well is the Renault Twingo, but its days are numbered, as well.
We are living in very strange times, when it comes to what small cars there are on offer: you have the really cheap stuff, like the Hyundai i10, Kia Picanto and the Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Peugeot 107 – these cars now occupy a niche of their own, and in terms of size, kit and price, they are the modern equivalent of 1990s superminis.
Aside from these cheaper cars, we have the Renault Twingo, which is very fun to drive and efficient – it sits halfway between the cheap stuff and the premium offerings, despite the fact that by looking at its interior, you`d be forgiven for thinking it is a car from 10 years ago.
Then we have the ‘premium’ offerings, like the aforementioned 500 and now, the Opel/Vauxhall Adam. The latter fails right off the bat, because it tries too hard, with awkwardly-named trim levels and options packs and silly body decals, which all-but scream out ‘buy me, buy me, I`m not as good as any of my rivals, and I come from a manufacturer which has no prior history of building anything similar, and while I may be marketed as a posh premium car for hipsters, if you look closer, you will be disappointed’.
However, the question of why Ford made the second Ka an average car on purpose, and why there won`t be a third generation remains unanswered. The cancellation of the next Ka brings another similar story to mind – the production version of the MINI Rocketman, which showed a lot of promise, and it made one very important one: it would have been the first genuinely-small MINI, since the Mini.
The folks over at Ford argued that the Ka would not make a sufficiently good financial case for itself – probably goes much deeper than that, but we`ll take their word for it. MINI, on the other hand stated that the main reason they would not be putting the Rocketman into production was the platform which underpinned it. Even premium manufacturers like MINI are not keen to spend money they don`t know they will get back, and since they couldn`t have shortened the current architecture which underpins all MINI models, they would have had to develop an all-new one, which would have cost hundreds of millions.
In the end, it`s all down to money, and while there may be some demand for cars like the hypothetical third generation Ford Ka, there is not enough of it to make it a viable financial proposition and, therefore, we can finally answer the question of why they won`t be making it – they are not convinced they would be making money out of it, and that`s that.
Perhaps Ford will revive the Ka nameplate, but this won`t happen any time soon, primarily because the second generation car is still in production, and is about to receive a mid-life makeover, and secondly, because if they do decide to make it, there is a very high likelihood of being a premium offering, as well.
Why? Well, the Fiat 500 is selling well in the US, where it is quickly gaining popularity and recognition, and factoring in Ford’s ‘One Ford’ philosophy, the next Ka could be a premium city car, which will be sold around the world and designed to appeal to a wide array of potential buyers, and it will, therefor be flawed.
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That being said, look for the next Ka to have a 5-door model if US sales are a goal - except for Mustang/Camaro/Challengers, Americans just don't buy two-door cars in any numbers anymore.