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Ford Looking to Crossover With New Fiesta

New, ute-like version could shore up appeal amidst global market shift.

by on Nov.30, 2016

Ford unveiled its next-gem Fiesta in Germany, including a new version call the Fiesta Active. It's unknown if the Active will hit U.S. shores.

It may be one of the smallest models in the Ford Motor Co. line-up, but the Detroit-based automaker has some big plans for the all-new Fiesta subcompact it unveiled during a splashy event at its Cologne, Germany, assembly plant.

Among other things, Ford hopes to take the Fiesta up-market, adding a higher-priced – and significantly higher-profit – Vignale version. There will also be a new crossover-like version of the Ford Fiesta, dubbed Fiesta Active, a move that could help rebuild momentum in a number of key markets, such as the U.S., where buyers by the millions are shifting from passenger cars to utility vehicles.

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“We don’t want to build commodities anymore,” declared Jim Farley, Ford Europe CEO, during an event that brought together 2,500 Ford dealers and staff and members of the news media.

The event touched on a number of different products, but perhaps none was as important as the debut of the next-generation Fiesta. It is routinely one of Ford’s best-sellers, the carmaker selling 17 million of the subcompacts since it first came to market in 1976.

In its early years, the Ford Fiesta was a stripped-down econobox. And it still brings in plenty of younger, first-time buyers looking to acquire their first new vehicle. But, in Europe especially, motorists have been downsizing, and Fiesta is no longer a vehicle solely for those on a tight budget.

With even traditional luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz entering the segment with more lavish offerings, Ford wants to better take aim at those who want a small, fuel-efficient product that also offers more upscale features. That’s where versions like the Vignale come in.

The new Fiesta is going upscale in an attempt to widen the field of potential buyers in Europe and the U.S.

Ford introduced that label several years ago on some of its bigger models, such as the Focus and Fusion, using it to push back against the encroaching luxury brands. Now, it will add a Fiesta Vignale, giving the subcompact such niceties as 18-inch wheels, an audiophile B&O sound system and an optional panoramic sunroof.

Buyers will also have a slightly less expensive – albeit, still well-equipped – Fiesta Titanium package to choose from, as well. The Fiesta Titanium already accounts for about half of European sales.

(Ford set to unveil all-new version of Fiesta. Click Here for the story.)

Across the spectrum, Fiesta will get a number of new features, including an updated suspension and new Electronic Torque Vectoring Control. For now, the maker is only revealing plans for the European versions of the subcompact, but that includes a new 120-horsepower, 1.5-liter diesel and a new six-speed manual gearbox.

Ford has been pushing the concept of “democratizing technology” in recent years, and that covers a wide range, including the updated Sync 3 infotainment system – now paired with display screens of up to 8-inches – as well as a number of new safety features for Fiesta. There is a new pedestrian detection system capable of working day and night, auto parking and automatic emergency braking.

The new Fiesta can be equipped with a range of advanced sensors, including twin cameras, three radar and 12 ultrasonic sensors. The package can look down the road up to a distance of around 400 feet.

How much of this will land in U.S. showrooms is far from certain. But expect there to be lots of interest in the Ford Fiesta Active model.

Ford's family of new Fiestas for Europe.

(Ford scales down with new EcoSport SUV. Click Here for more.)

Think of it as Ford’s answer to the original Subaru Outback, a solution that simply dressed up one of the Japanese maker’s old wagons, bumped up its suspension slightly and targeted what was then just an emerging market for utility vehicles.

Details on the Fiesta Active were in short order but it appears to get a little ride height boost, black plastic fender flares, modified bumpers and side skirts, as well as some metal-look trim to make it look more rugged.

Several Ford insiders who spoke to TheDetroitBureau.com declined to say whether the Active model will come to the States, though both stressed that the utility segment is exploding and that Ford wants to remain the leader in ute sales. In fact, demand for small utility vehicles is the hottest niche within an otherwise cooling U.S. market.

The caution flag is the fact that Ford CEO Mark Fields recently confirmed the maker will begin selling the EcoSport crossover in the U.S. in 2018. Similar in size to the Fiesta, Ford will have to decide whether there’s enough demand to support both, though it already has a crowded mix in other segments, such as the Escape, Explorer and Edge that have managed to draw from their own niches.

(Ford launches new safety technology to avoid collisions. For more, Click Here.)

Expect to see the new Ford Fiesta line arrive in the U.S. a year after it reaches Europe, likely sometime during the 2018 model year.

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