Ford’s Small Car Purge Continues Apace

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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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