DETROIT – Ford Motor Co. has not committed officially to bringing a B-segment car to the U.S. market, but if it does, it will leverage its global resources to do so, the auto maker’s top North American chief says.

“If we do a B-car, it’s going to come off global architecture,” Mark Fields, president-The Americas tells, Ward's at the North American International Auto Show here.

“In terms of how it will look, sheet metal, etc., we would have to conduct a good amount of research to see what would be a hit here in the U.S.," he says. "So it could or could not share sheet metal with our other B-cars around the world. That’s going to be determined by what the customer feedback is.”

As fuel prices in the U.S. rise, so does the popularity of the small B-car segment. Most of Ford’s competition has either entered, or plans to enter, the ring. Recent hits in the segment include the Nissan Versa, Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris.

Recently, Chrysler Group announced it has entered into a partnership with Chinese auto maker Chery Automobile Co. Ltd. to import B-cars and rebadge them for sale in the U.S.

Although Ford may be forced to go head to head with Chrysler and its low-cost Chinese-built cars, Fields says he is confident Ford can compete.

“The reason they (Chrysler) had to go to another OEM is because they don’t have B-cars,” Fields says. “In our case, we have a pretty thriving global B-car business in Europe and Asia/Pacific, and we can use a lot of that scale of economies to our advantage.”

Ford annually sells 500,000 B-cars in Europe and another 100,000 in the Asia/Pacific region, Fields says.

Aside from the cross/utility vehicle segment, many analysts say the B-car market will be the second-fastest growing segment in the U.S.

Like the CUV segment, which started out with a just a handful of vehicles, Ford brass predict the B-car segment will fragment once it hits its stride.

“But it won’t start out that way,” Cisco Codina, Ford group vice president-North America marketing, sales and service, tells Ward's. “Small will be big, but it will be a challenge to make money (on B-cars)."

Fields echoes Codina’s sentiments, but he says Ford stands ready to meet customer demand.

“First we have to decide to do a B-car, not bite off more than we can chew. We want to do it right,” he tells Ward's. “But we would bake into it a certain degree of flexibility that if we wanted to do different derivatives, we could.”

bpope@wardsauto.com