Ford Motor Co. has been criticized widely for its lack of a competitive small car in the U.S., especially when it builds some of the finest B-segment cars in the world in Europe and other overseas markets.

Pundits question why Ford can't import those small cars to North America, a seemingly simple solution to compete against the hot-selling Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit here.

But it's not that simple, says Freeman Thomas, Ford director-strategic design for North America Advanced Studios.

“One of the things you realize when you're in Europe is that small cars look really vulnerable,” he says. “But (such cars are) OK for the European environment, because (car buyers) accept that.”

But American consumers are more interested in security and roominess, he says.

What works in Europe will not work in the U.S., he says, due in part to differences in road infrastructure and the size of European countries compared with the U.S.

European cities and towns are close together, keeping vehicle occupants in constant touch with civilization. But U.S. motorists often travel great distances between populated areas, thus the need for a beefier, more substantial small car.