plans to build a vehicle based on its global C-car platform at its Cuautitlan, Mexico, assembly plant later in the decade, supplier sources say.
The model would replace production of the Fiesta, which will be discontinued in Mexico in early 2016 as output of the B-car for the U.S. market is shifted to Thailand.
It’s unclear specifically what C-platform vehicle will be assembled in Cuautitlan, but sources sayis likely to add capacity for the Focus there to supplement production from its Wayne, MI, plant.
Wayne currently builds all Focus derivatives, as well as the C-Max hybrid and plug-in hybrid.
Other possibilities for production at the Cuautitlan facility include the upcoming Lincoln MKC small cross/utility vehicle scheduled to hit the U.S. market in 2014 or a new yet-to-be-named C-segment vehicle.
According to a WardsAuto/AutomotiveCompass forecast, Ford plans to consolidate Fiesta production from three plants, Cuautitlan; Chennai, India; and Rayong, Thailand; into the Rayong facility with the next-generation model due in 2016.
The auto maker has been making a push to simplify its global vehicle lineup onto five core platforms, with plans calling for the B-platform to underpin 2 million units per year and the C-platform to accommodate more than 2 million vehicles.
Ford’s C/D architecture will be the basis for another 1 million vehicles, and the compact-pickup and commercial-van platforms will account for 275,000 and 475,000 units, respectively.
The production shifts could help Ford meet demand in a growing U.S. market, which is estimated to reach nearly 16 million units by 2015. The auto maker has said it could face capacity constraints should strong demand for its products continue.
Fiesta is the only vehicle produced at Cuautitlan, which is able to build multiple models on different platforms. The plant, with an annual capacity of 140,000 units, currently is operating at full speed.
Ford’s Chennai facility builds the Figo subcompact and Everest SUV, known as the Endeavour in the Indian market. The auto maker recently invested $140 million to expand the operation for production of the Fiesta-based EcoSport small CUV.
It’s unclear how sourcing the U.S.-market Fiesta from Thailand will impact Ford financially. Both markets have low labor rates, but, unlike Mexico, Thailand does not have a free-trade deal with the U.S.
Fiesta U.S. sales last year fell 17.2% to 56,775 units, but deliveries this year are up 7.0% to 22,108 through four months, according to WardsAuto data.
Sales are projected to increase further, as the Fiesta is drawing conquest buyers, mostly millennials, a coveted group of consumers between 18-34 years of age, at a double-digit rate.
Erich Merkle, Ford’s top U.S. sales analyst, says 62% of Fiesta buyers migrate from competing brands, and 25% of those are millennials.
“So it’s really accomplishing the mission we set out for it,” he tells WardsAuto. “It’s attracting younger buyers, an area where we haven’t had a tremendous amount of success in the past.”
Most of Fiesta’s conquests are former, and Chevrolet owners, many of whom reside in California, traditionally a tough market for Ford.
Ford also is banking on the refreshed ’14 Fiesta, set to launch in the U.S. this summer, to continue the trend. The new model will be the first to be sold in the U.S. with Ford’s 1.0L direct-injected turbocharged 3-cyl. EcoBoost engine, which is expected to achieve more than 40 mpg (5.8 L/100 km) highway.
The auto maker has offered B-segment vehicles in the U.S. before, including the Festiva between 1986 and 2002, but saw little success.
Merkle says the new Fiesta is a superior product that is changing the perception younger buyers have of Ford, which is critical to the auto maker’s long-term success.
“The Fiesta has laid the groundwork for things to come,” he says. “Long-term, we have to attract that younger buyer that’s going to be with us for a number of years to come.”