DETROIT – When Ford Motor Co. launches its Fiesta B-car in the U.S. next year, consumers don’t want to know that it was designed in Europe, the auto maker’s marketing chief says.

Ford conducted a lot of research to gauge what U.S. B-car buyers are looking for.

Surprisingly, they overwhelming told the auto maker “don’t try to sell its European-ness,” Jim Farley, director-marketing and communications, tells Ward’s at the North American International Auto Show here.

“That was a big surprise,” he says. “At the customer level they say, ‘I know it’s a European car, but it’s a Ford, so don’t confuse us.’”

Ford has not offered a B-car in the U.S. since a previous version of the Fiesta was replaced by the Escort in 1981.

As such, Farley and his team have a lot of work to do to get the word out that Ford is once again in the B-car segment.

“The key for (the) Fiesta is getting it in the hands of consumers, because we have virtually no consideration,” he says. “We haven’t been in the B-car market for a long time, so to get consideration, you have to start early.”

To that end, Ford has launched a new program dubbed “Fiesta Movement,” in which 100 enthusiasts will get to drive a European-spec Fiesta in the U.S. for six months.

Those wishing to apply for the chance to drive one of the cars can go to a dedicated website to create a brief video explaining why they deserve the opportunity to participate in the program. Applications will be accepted through March 13.

Those chosen will be required to report on their experiences.

Additionally, Ford will offer test drives of the Fiesta to more than 100,000 people.

“We’ve done a lot of research since I’ve been here on how we reconnect with small-car customers,” Farley says.

bpope@wardsauto.com