Ford Motor declined to comment on reports that it will add production of two models, the Ka minicar and EcoSport small SUV, at the automaker’s underused plant in Craiova, Romania.
Ford is considering building the Ecosport for European markets in the factory, the Ziarul Financiar business paper said, citing local plant sources. Ford currently imports the SUV from India for its European markets.
The company could also produce the new-generation Ka in Craiova, the paper said. Ford has an industrial partnership with Fiat to build the current Ka at Fiat’s plant in Tychy, Poland, alongside its platform sibling, the Fiat 500. Ka production in Tychy will end in April.
Ford is selling a new Ka in Brazil and India. This model is based on Ford’s global B platform that underpins the Fiesta subcompact and is built with the EcoSport in Chennai, India.
Ford of Europe President Jim Farley declined to comment on whether the Ka and Ecosport will be built in Craiova. "There is nothing new to be announced," Farley told Automotive News Europe. "Craiova remains a very critical part of our operation. Expect the Ford team to be laser-focused on continuing to get most of the plant," he said.
Some reports have said Ford may ax the Ka in Europe as part of its plans to drop sales of low-margin models to boost profitability, but Farley said Ford remains "committed to a small car to Europe."
Ford unveiled a concept of the Ka in Barcelona in 2013. Company sources at the time suggested the production version would launch in Europe by the end of 2015.
A Ford spokesman said the automaker is in the process of overhauling the latest-generation Ka for Europe. "The Ka has been significantly enhanced since we first showed it," the spokesman said.
Ford currently builds the B-Max subcompact minivan in Craiova, but the factory is operating far below its capacity of 300,000.
Last year Ford sold 46,315 units of the B-Max, down 14 percent on the year before, according to market analysts JATO Dynamics. The company sold 48,603 units of the Ka in Europe in 2015, down 8 percent. EcoSport sales in Europe tripled to 46,315.
Farley said Ford has increased the numbers of EcoSports exported to Europe from India after European buyers responded well to a redesign of SUV that included removing the tailgate-mounted spare wheel.
Ford starting building vehicles in Craiova in 2009 after acquiring the plant from a company that had previously built Daewoos on the site.
The first Ford produced was the Transit Connect light van, which has since moved to the company’s plant in Valencia, Spain. Ford also assembles the 1.0-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost gasoline engine for the B-Max and also the 1.5-liter EcoBoost for the Mondeo in Craiova.
Ford said in 2011 that it would manufacture a second subcompact vehicle in Craiova, but didn’t give a timeframe.