The European-designed and built Ford Fiesta is likely to be exported to Australia in 2004, according to the website drive.com.au, citing Ford Australia president Geoff Polites.


The Fiesta would be a much-needed replacement for the KIA -built, Mazda -based Festiva, which was killed off last year, the website said.


According to drive.com.au, Polites rates the chances of the Fiesta arriving as very good, and says the final decision lies with Ford Europe, which is struggling to meet demand for the car.


“I’m more confident than not,” Polites told drive.com.au, adding that the Fiesta could arrive in Australia as early as next year, but more likely in 2004.


“It depends on when Ford Europe can do the engineering work for us,” Polites told the website.


Polites told drive.com.au that, while getting approval to sell the Fiesta is “basically a formality” in terms of local regulations, it depends on the company’s European engineers being able to modify the car to meet specific Australian regulations, such as those on child-seat mounting points.


According to drive.com.au. Polites would not be drawn on specification or pricing but the website said that a 1.4-litre engine, possibly a 1.6-litre option and a starting price of around $A15,000 would make the car competitive with another European import in the class, the Opel-built Corsa, badged down under as the Holden Barina.


After two decades of sourcing re-badged small and medium cars from Mazda and its then-Korean affiliate Kia, Ford Australia has increasingly looked to Ford of Europe, though not always with success.


The company introduced the medium-sized Mondeo in the mid-1990s but poor sales apparently convinced it not to follow through with the revised model launched in Europe for the 2001 model year.


However, Ford Australia subsequently introduced the Spanish-made Ka as its entry-level model and, on October 1, launched a full line of Focus models, re-engineered and specified for Australia.