GENEVA (AP) — Ford Motor Co. unveiled its redesigned Fiesta subcompact on Tuesday with hopes of snagging a bigger share of the market for fuel-stingy vehicles that emit less carbon dioxide — and said it will bring the nameplate back to the United States after a 30-year absence.
The new version, with swept-back headlights and a deep grill flanked by foglights, emits less than 100 grams of CO2 per kilometer and gets 3.7 liters per 100 kilometers (29 miles per gallon).
The Fiesta has sold some 12 million units since it was introduced in 1976, and Ford has high expectations for the make in the face of growing demand for smaller, more efficient vehicles at a time of high gas prices and growing economic uncertainty.
While the name is familiar to customers in Europe, Asia and South America, the Fiesta was only sold in the U.S. from 1978 to 1980 — a difficult starting point from which to relaunch the brand.
''That was a very challenging discussion for us,'' Ford's head of small-car development Marin Burela told The Associated Press at the Geneva International Motor Show. ''In the end it became very clear to us that the name was something of value.''
The new model has lost weight, improving its efficiency. ''These are not just carry-overs of the old Fiesta, these are completely new vehicles,'' Ford Europe chief John Fleming told journalists.
''They're the same size, but they're lighter, and therefore greener,'' he said.
Ford says the Fiesta's sloping hood and aerodynamic shape are examples of how much a car's efficiency can be improved through design, not just technology.
The three- and five-door hatchback versions show up in European sales rooms this fall and China by the end of the year. Other versions, including a four-door sedan, will reach the rest of Asia by 2009 and North America by 2010.
''Our focus was on Europe as being the highest volume small car market in the world,'' Burela said.
But Ford is also hoping to catch a sizable share of the U.S. market for subcompact vehicles to make up for a downturn in sales of sport utility vehicles and large sedans. Ford said U.S. monthly sales dropped 7 percent in February as consumers abandoned heavier vehicles in the face of rising gas prices, prompting it to cut shifts and announce layoffs.
While subcompacts still make up less than 5 percent of the U.S. market — compared with 25 percent in Europe — the segment is one of the fastest growing in North America, with sales up 20 percent last year.
''There's a huge pull for small cars in the U.S. at the moment,'' Burela said.