LONDON -- Ford Motor may sell in Europe the five-door Ka minicar unveiled by company executives in Brazil.
A Ford of Europe spokesman said the automaker has no made a decision on whether to offer the vehicle in Europe but "it's on the shelf for Ford of Europe to draw down if it decides to."
Top Ford executives, including Chairman Bill Ford, were at the company's Camacari plant in Brazil on Wednesday to showcase a concept version of the global Ka five-door hatchback, which will be introduced in Brazil next year.
Eventually, Ford will bring the global Ka to other emerging markets, including China, where more families are amassing the wealth needed to buy their first vehicle.
Speaking to reporters last week in Detroit, Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of the Americas, said the Ka Concept is "one of the most important product programs in the company in the last few years."
In Europe Ford currently sells the second-generation Ka three-door, launched in 2008. The Ka is based on the Fiat 500 and is built in the Italian automaker's factory in Tychy, Poland, alongside the 500. Ten-month sales of the Ka in Europe fell 18 percent to 40,000, according to market researchers JATO Dynamics.
Last year Ford of Europe CEO Stephen Odell told Automotive New Europe there was no rush to replace the three-door Ka. "Our contract with Fiat goes well into the second half of this decade, so we are not in a hurry," he said.
Designed and built in Brazil, the Ka five-door concept is smaller and less expensive than a Ford Fiesta subcompact. The Ka carries Ford's new global design language, which Ford officials believe give their vehicles a premium look. "It makes it look like a much more expensive vehicle for much less," Ford designer Ehab Kavod said. "It's the smallest car we do, but when you look at it, it exudes premium."
Ford said the concept is a "strong precursor" to the production car, offering class-leading fuel economy and a host of useful technologies, including a a docking station to accommodate a smart phone, allowing the driver to view navigation and other features.
Ford expects global sales of small, low-cost cars to grow 35 percent between 2012 and 2017, outpacing the expected 12 percent rise for the industry as a whole. Ford said 44 percent of the market for "sub-B" cars will be in South Asia and South America.
The automaker now feeds this market with its current-generation Ka and Figo, which are built on older, locally tailored vehicle platforms that Ford is increasingly avoiding.
The Ka Concept unveiled in Brazil is part of Ford CEO Alan Mulally's One Ford strategy of building global models that can be sold in countries around the world. Ford is working to commonize its vehicles around the world on a series of core platforms. In doing so, the carmaker hopes to save money on engineering, purchasing commodities and manufacturing.
The Ka Concept follows the Ford EcoSport subcompact SUV that was developed in Brazil for global markets. As well as Brazil, the EcoSport also goes into production in India from next year with sales in Europe starting in the summer.
Ford's first global vehicle under Mulally was the Fiesta in 2008, but developing a global car as small and cheap as the Ka has been a challenge. Ford studied Maruti Suzuki India, Hyundai and Kia and their approach to the global market for small cars, Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said.
Bradford Wernle, Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report