As reports emerge that Ford is preparing to study KA no more, we try to sound upset.
As your correspondent is perhaps over-fond of observing, the Henry Ford Motor Company does quite a line in unlearning nowadays. So much so in fact that it’s been getting rather difficult to keep up. Unlearn : Saloons. Unlearn : Minivans. Unlearn : Up to 5000 jobs in Europe this year.
Reaping the rewards of its failure to react in a timely fashion to a combination of competitive, behavioural and legislatively-driven factors, to say Ford Europe is embattled is something of an understatement. Coming soon perhaps? Unlearn : Britain.
The latest in this unedifying jettisoning of ballast lies at the bottom of Ford’s European drawer. Unlearn : KA. Not for the first time either, since the advent of the current KA Plus involved a sizeable quantum of collective amnesia towards the visually striking original, to say nothing of its less arresting (or commercially successful) Tychy-KA replacement.
In truth, the current KA + was little more than a placeholder, an opportunity for Ford to establish what, if any portion of the European economy-car market it could inexpensively hold on to, while giving dealers something to hide in a corner of the showroom for those cheerless souls who rebuffed all entreaties to be up-sold a Fiesta. Certainly, KA Plus suggests the diametric opposite of a party – or perhaps the kind where you lock yourself in the bathroom, feverishly dialling the local taxi service, while feigning an urgent mercy-dash to the bedside of an aged relative.
It’s likely that Ford’s product strategists were realistic enough to rationalise that a reheated emerging-market offering wasn’t going to butter all that many turnips and in this context they were correct. After all, they were still licking the wounds inflicted by their superiors following the commercial drubbing the risible EcoSport CUV received until such time as it was given a perfunctory (if mystifyingly effective) lick and a promise.
KA + therefore benefited from a soupçon more developmental rigour from the engineering teams in Köln-Merkenich and Dunton before being unleashed to the baying masses. Modest, rather than stellar sales were the order of play following its 2016 introduction, with virtually identical numbers (slightly over 50,000) sold over the past two years adding up to a total of 121,322 to February of this year.
As is customary, if we employ the standard Driven to Write barometer of success – the evergreen White Hen Test© – we discover that FCA sold 188,595* Ypsilons over an identical timescale – a car which I need not remind readers sells exclusively in Italy. Although for those amongst you (poor deluded fools that you are) who do not view the death-defying Lancia in quite the same beatific terms, another way of looking at matters is this. Over 2018 alone, FCA shipped 168,094 Fiat Pandas across the European continent, itself no spring chicken.
But while KA Plus’ success (or lack of same) might have been a factor in Ford’s decision not to further prolong the misery, it’s the spectre of 2020 EU emissions regulations that have precipitated the erstwhile Figo’s forthcoming departure from these shores. Following a hasty and by the looks of things, futile facelift last year, the added costs of ensuring the KA + can maintain compliance are not only prohibitive, but any failure to do so would entail huge fines, the like of which Ford do not wish to be saddled with. So adieu.
While it’s tough going for all carmakers in the current environment, Ford in particular appear to be either having a particularly torrid time of it at present or are making particularly hard work of things, depending on where your sympathies rest on the subject.
A number of things seem clear however. (1): No eulogies will be required for KA Plus, the KA that gave you less, but in an altogether bigger, more amorphous package. (2): In its absence, Ford is ceding even more ground to its European rivals. (3): It’s unlikely to be a sector we’ll see them return to anytime soon.
Unlearn : Market share?
*All sales data – Carsalesbase.com