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I was flying out east Thursday night and had time to catch up on my auto mag reading. Motor Trend (with the GT500 on the cover) was the most interesting of the bunch, with lots of great content. But the biggest "news" is in a short Q&A with Peter Horbury, Ford design director. He blatantly says Ford is serious about a small American car. That's great. But what isn't great is what Horbury explains Americans want in a small car.

Horbury cites my town of Chicago as the case for what ?people? want and need their small cars for. Translation, they don?t need sporty, aerodynamic cars, they want funky Scion xB box type vehicles instead. It sounds to me like a practical version of the SYN-us might be in our future. Note to Ford: That will be a huge mistake.

While many people are buying and driving the xB in Chicago, many more are driving Mini Coopers and Scion tCs. Don?t make the mistake that A: all city drivers want utility over performance and B: all small car drivers will be city drivers!

B is almost more important. People are going to need practical transportation all over America. They may even need them for highway commuting. The xB, while a great vehicle, is not at home on the highway. If Ford dedicates resources to a box-shaped vehicle instead of a real Focus replacement (even if it isn?t the European version) they?ll be making a huge mistake. Don?t let trends dictate a major part of your buisness. But Horbury is getting hopes up saying there will be riskier designs in store. Good. But vehicles like the Dodge Caliber (and before that Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe) answer the city issues better than the xB while giving some performance value too.

And if I didn?t make it clear enough, please do not make a SYN-us.

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