Ford’s (NYSE:F) Fiesta compact, its smallest vehicle in production at the moment, is finding itself hitting automotive news headlines to either side of the U.S. this week, both in Europe and in Japan — in two rather different contexts, as well.
The United Kingdom’s AutoExpress.co.uk is reporting that sources within Ford have tipped off that a new version of the Fiesta RS may very well be on its way, under a new, aggressive-looking aero kit, and a tire-burning 230 horsepower under the hood. Here in the states, the hottest Fiesta available is the ST (pictured above) — so think of the RS as playing in the league above that.
AutoExpress believes that the RS would use the same 1.6 liter turbocharged engine that is currently found in the ST, though after its power has been upped from 179 to 230 — putting it within spitting distance of the Focus ST, which in U.S. spec boasts 252 horsepower. AutoExpress continues, noting that the Fiesta RS first made its appearance at the Geneva Auto Show in 2004; however, due to financial viability issues, it never saw production. But thanks to a renewed interest in the compact and growing sales, a high-performance model is back in the cards.
The site further contends that if the RS gets the official green light, those across the pond can expect to see it sometime next year, wearing a rather lofty price of around 23,000 pounds — about $37,800. Check out the original article and some pretty awesome renderings from AutoExpress. Though these hot hatch models typically don’t see action in the U.S., its possible that some aspects of the car might make it in as options for the Fiesta ST, though time will tell.
Meanwhile, across the globe, Ford is reportedly seeking another shot at a market that has, in the past, been rather troublesome for its peppy compact. The Fiesta never sold well in Japan, and the model was relieved from duty in the country after selling just 2,800 units from 2004 through 2007. However, Ford’s issues in Japan are a bit deeper than just a weak selling model. Trade barrier concerns and currency manipulation allegations are at the core of Ford’s problems. Japan, which unlike the U.S. has an economy that is based near-solely on exports, takes its local industries rather seriously, and therefore has protectionism laws in place that make it quite difficult for international companies to sell their products there — the Fiesta being no exception.
While Japanese companies are able to sell their vehicles Stateside, the same cannot be said for Japan, and domestic manufacturers are naturally upset about it. Add to this the sliding Japanese yen, which leans heavily in Japan’s favor and was a core component to its economic recovery following the financial crisis, and you have the recipe for some unhappy campers on the short end of the global commerce stick.
Ford is facing another big issue in Japan, but more to the point of the Fiesta itself. Japan does small things very, very well; while America tends to side with larger trucks and SUVs, the Japanese have a similar affinity with microcars, compacts, and so on. Therefore, Ford’s decision to introduce the Fiesta, its smallest car, isn’t giving the Japanese market something it so desperately needs. In fact, most of the 3,500 vehicles that Ford sold in the island country last year — 50 percent or so — were Explorers.
However, the Fiesta is a very different car than it was in 2004, and still considerably different than the model from 2007. Additionally, 2013 proved to be a record year for Japanese imports, at 280,540 vehicles. “This is for those who might want a different kind of compact,” Japan Ford President Toshio Morita told reporters in Tokyo, as per the Detroit News. The Fiesta which is expected to go on sale in Japan on February 1. “Our business in Japan will become stronger,” he added.