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Jan. 13, 2004

Ford ponders developing vehicle aimed at youth market

By RICK KRANZ | Automotive News

Ford Motor Co. will decide this year whether to develop a small, low-priced vehicle aimed at the youth market in North America, says the company's product-development chief.

If approved, the vehicle likely would be developed off a new subcompact platform that Mazda is developing.

Ford already is developing 10 Ford, Mercury and Lincoln models from the mid-sized Mazda6 platform.

Phil Martens, vice president of North American product creation, said of the proposed small Ford: "I feel a sense of urgency to do it." A decision will be made this year.

Among the issues to be decided is whether the vehicle would be assembled in North America or imported, he said. Martens was interviewed at the Detroit auto show.

While not describing the Ford model that is under consideration, Martens said small sport wagons continue to grow in popularity.

"We want to make sure that if we do a product (for North America) it has true appeal for the youth market, and that is a difficult thing to do," Martens said. "Not every car under $15,000 appeals to the youth market."

Commenting on the success of Toyota's Scion xB, Martens said: "I think the market is ready for that. It is nice to let others lead the way because it is a tough market to crack. We can be very effective as a fast follower."

Over the past decades, Ford tried unsuccessfully to woo low-price buyers with two car imports, the Fiesta and Aspire.

Ford had considered importing the current-generation Fusion sport wagon from Brazil and displayed the car at the 2002 Los Angeles auto show. But that plan was dropped.

"There is an opportunity now to rethink our approach with the whole international automotive group that David Thursfield leads and the recently announced role that Mazda will play as the lead for our small cars," Martens said.

Full Article Here

Mazda subcompacts in Japan market:
AZ-Wagon


Laputa


Mazda Japan subcompact lineup
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Originally posted by Hudson@Jan 15 2004, 12:07 PM
The Scions are nice cars. They are "premium subcompacts" with excellent build quality, good rides (for their size), good use of interior space, quirky styling (take that as a good or bad), and good prices. Toyota has provided excellent aftermarket for them. Young people seem to like them. I was driving the first xA in my area a few months ago and teenagers noticed it.
None of this changes the fact that these are several year old models from the Japan market, which has since moved on (Toyota still sells them with a gagillion other models). In fact the big losers here are the Japanese makers like Nissan, Suzuki, Mistusbishi and Honda, who all have "kei" cars like the Scions that are in many cases more popular than the Toyotas. My dog-eared 4 year old copy of a Japanese auto mag with the Toyota bBX as a current production vehicle (that's so "new and fresh" in the US), and the Japanese news stories I read about the model failing to attract the youth market in Japan have me looking at the Scions in a different light.

Stylish, Trendy, "Its a Toyota (Sony)" whatever. Young people want a cheap econobox that doesn't look cheap. This is where these redone Echos succeed. The Echo was lame, and looked cheap, or at least downscale and dorky. The styling is for grandma. Toyota made a smart move and started introducing funky designs from the streets of Tokyo.

But like Sony (years ago) introducing Minidisc and DV players several years old from the Japanese market and marketing them as "new and fresh" here, I am unimpressed.

Ford could certainly learn a few things from Mazda on making cheap, small engined, yet actually attractive / fun little vehicles. I just hope the guys at Ford don't get their hands into the exterior design. They really need to lay off - in particular the Ford designers who seem intent on keeping all of their brand new redesigned Explorers and such looking exactly the same as the previous generation vehicles...

Chevy took a modern Daewoo Kalos design and turned it into a widemouth bass Taurus thing that just looks awful. I'd be willing to bet that the headlights and grill were redone in America, not Italy. Thankfully from the side and rear it looks the same, but this would have lured "youth" much better, I think:

http://bilder.mobile.de/images/autos/52269...1060680841.bild



 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
Originally posted by Hudson@Jan 16 2004, 04:09 PM
I don't know where you've been...but MiniDisc and DV players have been on the US market for years.
Japan for about a decade.

Obviously Minidisc and DV have been here for some time - what I'm saying is that I could find a particular Minidisc or DV camera (from, say, sony) being sold in Akihabara in 1992 that was being passed off as fresh and new in 1998 here in the U.S. at a Best Buy.

Take a trip to Tokyo's "electric town", take photos of the televisions, radios, etc. in all of the shops, and you'll have a good idea of what will be the next new big thing 2-3 years later in the US.

Of course, some of it just never makes it here -- I guess Japan's home market is a kind of "first adopter market", where people are willing to pay big bucks for the new tech as soon as possible - and stuff that doesn't sell well is never exported. Of course, with minicars that strategy seems to make little sense, unless Toyota wants to keep its quality rep high - Ford had to deal with Focus problems in the first couple of years, Toyota could contain such problems in the Japan market and sell the vehicle in the states 3 years later...

Let's put it this way - in 1997 http://www.nec.co.jp/press/en/9702/2701.html Plasma screens were the big upcoming thing in Tokyo - the status symbol you'd have to get to be on the bleeding edge. It's been about a year or two now in the making, but giant plasma or flat panel TVs were suddenly all the rage - years later. Some of this obviously has to do with price - but in general I've noticed the Japanese product on sale now is something you have to wait years for to get your hands on in the US, and even then its not the latest & greatest, but some design from 3 years ago.

What a time difference. Toyota's Scion cars remind me of this in that they tend to be OLD NEWS, like the BB/bBX.

At least people know the story of the Monaro becoming the "new" GTO. But I wonder how hip/sick/cool Scions would be if people knew they really weren't new at all, and were never all that popular in Toyotas own home market.
 
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