Ford is going after the Honda Fit (Jazz), the Daewoo-built Chevrolet Aveo and Toyota Yaris with a new subcompact spun off the redesigned Mazda 2, according to a US newspaper.

The Detroit News said Ford Americas president Mark Fields told employees about the new car during his weekly webcast.

Ford hasn't contested this small car sector - the B-segment in Europe - since it withdrew the Kia-made Ford Aspire (the Korean automaker called it the Pride) some years ago.

US pundits this week were predicting $US3-a-gallon petrol for this coming summer and that news is sure to have reinforced the number two Detroit-based car maker's wish to enter a segment where the established rivals have enjoyed success since US petrol prices rose sharply.

A Ford spokeswoman declined to comment to the paper on the announcement to staff.

The Detroit News noted that Fields' news came in the week Ford CEO Alan Mulally was in Japan meeting executives of Mazda Motor, which Ford controls.

"I fully expect the deep ties between Ford and Mazda to extend into the future and become even stronger," Mulally reportedly said earlier this week.

Mazda launches the new Japanese-built 2 in Europe at the Geneva motor show next week. Over here, the sleek redesign replaces a boxy model built in a Ford plant in Spain. Locally-made versions were marketed as the Mazda Demio in Japan.

The new 2 is on a platform expected to underpin the next-generation Ford Ka and Fiesta as well as Fiat's upcoming Cinquecento - the Italian car will be the product of a joint venture announced some time ago.

Ford vehicles built on this platform will be sold in North and South America, Europe and, likely, some markets in Asia/Australasia but body styling is expected to vary market by market, rather than being essentially the same worldwide, like the Aveo, Fit/Jazz and Yaris.

Ford US is apparently increasing its use of Mazda designs. The mid-sized (European D-segment) Mazda 6 platform was adapted for the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans, and the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers.

Ford also shares some Mazda petrol engines.