Ford's intense internal trans-Atlantic debate about whether or not to replace the Fiesta name when the supermini's replacement goes on sale here in Europe next autumn (fall) has re-opened.

A hard core of the company's European marketing executives favour the Verve badge, just-auto understands, and it will feature on the Fiesta preview concept car at next month's Frankfurt motor show, despite global CEO Alan Mulally's recent strong endorsement of retaining the Fiesta nameplate.

Mulally, who had the simpler task of dealing with aircraft type numbers rather than the critical issue of car model naming when running Boeing, is a traditionalist, having revived the Taurus sedan nameplate in North America at the expense of the lacklustre 500 (which replaced the previous-generation Taurus).

The Verve concept will be joined on Ford's Frankfurt stand by the already-announced Focus-based Kuga compact crossover SUV and the updated C-segment Focus which was fully redesigned for the 2005 model year.

Ford's jury is also out about when to publicly debut the production version of the Fiesta's successor, with next year's March Geneva and the July London shows vying for that privilege, just-auto has learned.

Ford of Britain is lobbying strongly for London to prevail particularly as the Fiesta has been the UK's best-selling supermini for nearly three decades. It was also the brand's second highest fleet seller behind Focus last year.

Meanwhile the next-generation Ka, to be built alongside Fiat's new 500 in Poland, will appear in final form at next September's Paris show.

Earlier this year Ford admitted that three potential new model names, Genesis, Isis and Phoenix were "under investigation" in the international car titles' register.

A Ford source told us: "Mulally has expressed the view that Fiesta, which debuted in the UK market in February, 1977, has strong brand equity and credibility plus few negatives. Some middle management want a break for the new car, which is radically different from its enduring predecessors and they are excited about Verve."

When Ford abandoned the Escort name, also after nearly 30 years, it involved an 11th-hour decision to opt for Focus instead of Fusion on the eve of the 1998 Geneva show, second-guessing media speculation that Fusion had already been selected.

The Fusion name was later launched in Europe on a five-door, high-ride-height 'mini-minivan/MPV derivative of the current Fiesta and is also used on a different, and much larger, sedan model in North America.

Hugh Hunston