Mike Stevens | Oct 19, 2010

The Ford Start concept - revealed at April's Beijing Auto Show - was a sign of things to come for the US carmaker, global design boss J Mays said at the time.

Now it seems the Start may be exactly what's coming, according to reports out of Europe this week.

Although it acted as the vessel for the unveiling of Ford's new 1.0 litre three-cylinder EcoBoost engine, the Start is officially little more than a design study, created to explore new styling opportunities beyond the brand's current 'Kinetic' design language.

A new report in British magazine Autocar claims the Start may now be destined for production, entering Ford's line-up as the next-generation Ka.

Absent from the Australian market since the retirement of the Fiesta-based first-generation model, the European-market Ka has since taken on a more stylish design inspired by the current Fiesta - even going on to a brief role in the last James Bond film.

If the Start does find its way to market as the new Ka, it will likely be some years away (the current Ka is only two years old) and with a significant styling makeover to make it production ready.

 

Australia

When it launched in Europe in 2008, the new Ka would have held little appeal for Ford Australia, particularly with the new Fiesta covering the company's light-car needs when it launched in the following January.

In the time since though, Suzuki has launched the Alto - a sub-Swift 'supermini' now priced at just $11,790 - and Holden's entry-level Barina Spark is nearing an Australian launch also.

Hyundai too may soon enter the tiny ultra-light market with its diminutive i10 hatch, CEO Edward Lee telling TMR earlier this year "if it is necessary and demand is there, we will bring it here".

With the Alto, the Barina Spark and a possible i10 debut filling a niche that only barely exists in Australia (VFACTS classes the Alto alongside the Swift), the already right-hand-drive Ford Ka could easily find its way here - if it can be brought in at the right price.

Produced at only one plant in Poland alongside the Fiat 500, with which it shares engines and a number of components, Poland's lower cost manufacturing base could strengthen the business case for an Australian debut.

 

The Ford Start Concept

In an interview with the Detroit Free Press this week, Mays, who joined Ford in 1997 and has played a role in projects from the Ford GT to the Aston Martin DB9, spoke of the Start's appeal.

"What we did was create a car with warmth and charm and a car that you can bond with," Mays told the Detroit Free Press.

Mays said that while no decision has been made on putting the Start (or a version of it) into production, its design shows the evolution of Ford's new styling language.

Mays said the driving force behind his design projects is the desire to create cars that buyers will fall in love with.

"People purchase products because they are prepared to spend part of their life with it," Mays said. "It is an emotional relationship."

"Love is really what you are looking for."

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