Early U.S. sales for Ford Motor Co's Fiesta show that consumers are buying higher-end versions of the new small car, boosting the automaker's profit on sales in a traditionally low-margin segment, company officials said on Wednesday.
Only about 7 percent of Ford Fiesta's U.S. sales since the subcompact debuted in showrooms in June have been for the basic Fiesta S sedan.
Sam De La Garza, brand manager for Fiesta, said that Ford's projections were that 15 percent of buyers would opt for the basic Fiesta S sedan.
Consumer choice, De La Garza said, indicates that so far U.S. Fiesta buyers, even first-time new car buyers in their 20s, want costlier features even in the lower end of the vehicle price spectrum.
The 2011 Fiesta marks Ford's return to the U.S. subcompact market after an absence of three decades.
For too long, De La Garza said, Ford ceded dominance in the U.S. small car market to automakers like Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co.
The Fiesta and the newly designed and slightly bigger Focus sedan represent Ford's huge bet that it can turn profits making smaller cars after decades of relying on pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles in its home market.
The Fiesta was first launched in Europe and Asia.
The Focus and Fiesta also represent Ford's shift toward shared global platform production strategy.
In the first three months of retail U.S. sales, Ford sold 7,692 Fiesta sedans and hatchbacks, De La Garza said.
It was big for us to understand how we could go out and attract more millenials, said De La Garza. Ford considers millenials consumers born from 1979 to 1994.
The Fiesta is going to be key to attracting new buyers to Ford, especially entry-level buyers who are looking for less expensive sticker prices and better fuel economy.
Ford says the U.S. version of Fiesta gets 40 miles per gallon of gasoline.
The basic Fiesta S sedan is priced at $13,995 including transport charges, compared with $14,995 for the Fiesta SE sedan and $16,995 for the Fiesta SEL sedan. The SE hatchback version costs $15,795 and the SES hatchback retails at $17,795.
The higher-priced models offer more features as standard equipment.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Gary Hill)