Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ford loosing focus on Focus?

I'm having problems posting photos, so I'm just going to go ahead without them. On Friday AutoBlog posted an article on SpyPhotos of the 2008 Focus sedan from Foculjet Forums. The photos are kind of fuzzy, but you can make out what looks like a new Fusion type three bar grille.

But what's more interesting than the spy photos, is the discussion about the future of the Focus both at AutoBlog and at Foculjet Forums.

It seems Ford is considering killing the Focus 3 & 5 door hatches, as well as the station wagon, leaving the 4 door sedan and a possible 2 door coupe. So they're going to "Americanize" the Focus by killing most versions. I'm not sure that's the "Bold Move" I'd make, but let's explore this further.

3 door hatchbacks seem to be loosing favor in the US, even Honda no longer offers the Civic in hatchback form. So while I prefer the look of a 3 door hatch and Volvo is introducing the C30, a 3 door version of the Focus C1 based S40/V50, Ford wants to cut out the bottom rung of the Focus ladder. Debateable move, but there is a trend away from 3 doors.

Now 5 door hatchbacks and little utes are all the rage now, with the new Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, and Hyundais selling well. Toyota has the Matrix and Mazda the 3 (also Focus C1 based). Dodge just moved away from the Neon sedan with the Caliber and Jeep is coming to market with 2 clones the Patriot and Compass. So why would Ford kill the 5 door? And the Wagon too? Now nobody is going to acuse the Focus wagon of being exciting, but it's one of the last compact station wagons on the market. So does Ford have a new model coming that will fit in this niche? Or are they just going to abandon the 5 door/wagon/ute market?

The 4 door sedan does seem to be the most popular Focus right now and is a good car. I'm reserving judgement on the "Dave" styling until I see better pictures. But the Focus does offer a competitor to Honda's Civic and Toyota's Corrola. But the Civic is all new and the Corrolla is due for replacement soon.

Now a 2 door coupe? That could be interesting, Honda has had success with their coupe as has Chevy with the Cobalt. But this has been a shrinking market segment, isn't it?

So is Ford doing to the Focus what they did to the Escort? Breaking ties with it's European roots, differentiating the model so much that they have little more than a name in common? The last generation Escort if you remember was nothing more than a rebadged Mazda 323 with none of the Ford Escort DNA from Europe.

It's said that Ford will bring a new Focus to the US in 2010 based on the C1 platform. Well hell what other platform can they use? But that will be how many years after the C1 saw world wide release?

There are pros and cons for some of these moves, but Ford had better sort out their plans quickly and bring competative variations to the North American Market as soon as possible or sooner. Maybe the new Focus based Crossover? Will the new Focus Coupe be based on the European Coupe/Cabriolet?

The "Way Forward" seems to involve a lot of chasing their own tale in my opinion.

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