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Small Car Czar
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It\'s OFFICIAL...get use to the current Focus

From Autoweek.com

Ford U.S. likely won't get new global compact car platform for Focus

By MARK RECHTIN AND AMY WILSON | Automotive News


In a reversal of course, Ford Motor Co. will not use the new global C1 compact car platform for the North American Focus until at least 2007. While the rest of the world will get a redesigned C1-based Focus next year, North America may never get the vehicle, executives have confirmed.

Ford executives had said the North American Focus would shift to the C1 platform, which will accommodate the European Focus and several Ford, Mazda and Volvo models. Based on a standard vehicle cycle of four or five years, that shift could have come next year or in 2005.

The decision means the American-market Focus, which is based on the C170 platform, will be eight years old in a hyper-competitive segment where five-year cycles are the norm and four years is not unheard of. Cost appears to be a major reason for the decision.

Chris Theodore, Ford's vice president of advanced product creation, said Ford North America still needs to pay for the development costs of the current Focus before it can look to adopt the new platform.

"We have to amortize and make money on our original investment," Theodore says.

But Theodore denies that the decision was a red flag signaling a change in Ford's platform-sharing strategy.

"Ford is not backing away from globalization of its platforms. This is just a timing issue. We will continue to march toward platform consolidation. We will see unique models coming from those platforms," Theodore says.

But a decision to switch to C1 for North America has not been made, he says.

"C1 is the obvious candidate, but it is not the only one. We don't want to make our decision too soon," Theodore says. Part of the decision also involves the timing and cadence of Ford's product introductions.

The Europe-market Focus has run a full five-year cycle and is due for a redesign, while the North American market did not get its version of the Focus until the 2000 model year.

"It was never an option to short-cycle the C170 (in America)," says Nick Scheele, Ford Motor president. "We are sticking with the C170, which is doing quite well. Why change it?"

But Ford has been trumpeting the benefits it would gain by sharing engineering and supplier resources in developing the C1 platform with Mazda and Volvo.

More than a dozen vehicles are slated to be derived from the C1 platform, from Ford Focus convertibles to Mazda3 hatchbacks to Volvo S40 sedans to Land Rover Freelander sport wagons.

The first vehicle off the new platform, the five-seat Focus C-Max mini-minivan, goes on sale in Europe next month.

The other European Focus variants will be produced in April.

The Mazda Protege was redesigned for the 1999 model year and is on schedule to be replaced in December by the Mazda3. Volvo's S40 and V40 - co-developed with Mitsubishi - were introduced in America in fall 1999 and will be replaced in the spring.

But the Volvos had been on sale before that in Europe and were due for a redesign.

In the meantime, Ford North America will soldier on using the old C170 platform, although some interim changes will be made. Ford just launched a PZEV-emissions version of the Focus in the spring, with a new 2.3-liter inline-four engine. A re-engineered and restyled Focus will debut in April for the 2005 model year. A performance version of the sedan will be added to the lineup for 2005 as well.

It may be that the new C1 platform priced itself out of North America's budget car segment.

In Europe, Focus is in a segment with vehicles that hold a price premium, and people value its performance-in-a-small-package character. But in North America, the compact segment is much more price sensitive. Chevrolet, for instance, has offered rebates of $4,000 on the Cavalier, while Ford has kept Focus rebates to about $2,000. Focus sales through July are flat compared with last year.

"The Focus here is different than in Europe," Scheele says. "In Europe, it is about family, handling and performance. In America, it's an entry-level vehicle. So what I would do for one product, I might not do for another. They need to reflect a different marketplace."

Using a platform with higher variable costs would require a higher vehicle price to break even and could compromise efforts to reach volume goals for the Focus, one Ford insider says. That could hinder Ford's ability to meet corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards as because the Focus is a big contributor to the automaker's CAFE.

Ford has battled quality problems with the Focus. The car generally received positive reviews for ride, handling and design upon its introduction. But the North American version has been plagued with quality problems that put a black eye on the nameplate.

In contrast, the Europe-market Focus has been touted for its high quality in both J.D. Power ratings and in a German equivalent of Consumer Reports. One Ford source says the company doesn't have the resources for another major product introduction and worried that a Focus platform change could trigger another round of costly recalls.

Ford conducted 10 U.S. recalls of the 2000 Focus, six recalls of the 2001 Focus and one recall of the 2002 Focus SVT.

In September 2002, Ford began offering an extended five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. It also increased advertising on the 2003 model to an estimated $100 million, even more than Ford spent to introduce the vehicle.

Ford officials boast that the Focus has been free of recalls for nearly two years, and that warranty repairs for the 2003 model have improved by 23 percent over the 2002 model.
 

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Re: It\'s OFFICIAL...get use to the current Focus

Hey Ron, check your PM's.
 

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Re: It\'s OFFICIAL...get use to the current Focus

is it just me or does america ALWAYS get the short end of the stick when it comes to cars...its like being forced to go to a 5 star restaraunt where everone gets steak and porterhouses, and our menu only has hotdogs bbq chips
im movin to europe
 

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Re: It\'s OFFICIAL...get use to the current Focus

A performance version of the sedan will be added to the lineup for 2005 as well.
this caught my eye.
 

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Re: It\'s OFFICIAL...get use to the current Focus

I wouldn't blow this out of proportion guys.

I don't think the C1 is a radical evolution of the C170. I believe it's mostly just a stretched chassis, with basically the same suspension setup. If you look, you'll see Ford using this same suspension setup on most new cars. For example, the Jag X type and Explorer both use rear suspensions that are basically control-blade setups redone for RWD. So, extend that thought to the C1, and you'll probably find they are using the exact same suspension, on a new chassis that has been made bigger, and friendlier for AWD.

I haven't been under a Mazda 3 yet, but I believe it's going to be the same setup we love in the Focus, just a slightly stretched chassis.

That being the case, it all makes sense.

The Focus is STILL the BEST small car on the market in NA. Quality problems aside. And well they should be, the quality of the late model Foci is really quite good.

That being the case, and you must accept the fact that small cars in America are just "economy cars", you know Ford has to save money, and try to milk that tooling for all it's worth.

The last point, is that an enlarged Focus just doesn't fit into the NA product plan. With the Futura and 500 coming, there just isn't room for a larger Focus. That would put it too close to the Futura.

Personally, I think with a good exterior refreshening, and maybe interior (or IP at least) the C170 will soldier on just fine.

I would bet that the C1 and C170 platforms are so similar, that suspension bits are interchangable, just like the new and old Imprezza's, and VW has been doing for decades.

I mean hell... even people in Europe aren't complaining that VW has been using the suspension in the Golf that they've been using for 30 years!

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
 

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Re: It\'s OFFICIAL...get use to the current Focus

I mean hell... even people in Europe aren't complaining that VW has been using the suspension in the Golf that they've been using for 30 years!

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
and now finally replacing it with their own version of the "Control Blade"........
 

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Re: It\'s OFFICIAL...get use to the current Focus

Yeah, I saw that too. When I saw the pics, I basically stated it looked like they stole the Ford engineers who just redid the Ford design. Apparently, that's what happened. I believe VW litterally "stole" the engineers from Ford, and they just redid everything. It's a spitting image of the Ford design.

Oh well... I guess Ford might learn to pay their engineers better. Oh wait, they haven't.
 

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Re: It\'s OFFICIAL...get use to the current Focus

I agree with P51.....I have always thought the Focus was a bit ahead of it's time (except in quality issues perhaps). With a slight interior and exterior freshening, I think the Focus could easily remain competitive in this market. Heck, look at the Cavalier. The Focus is way better and yet GM still has no problem selling them....
 

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Re: It\'s OFFICIAL...get use to the current Focus

I don't see what the big deal is. When was the last time that the Civic or Corolla was updated to the extent that the C1 platform would bring to the C170? The Protege was last redesigned in 1999, but it was still on the same platform prior, no? And the Explorer, before the recent one, how long was it on that platform? Eight years is about the norm for a vehicle platform, with a refreshening in the middle, so I don't know why this is such a big deal. Did people honestly think we'd get the C1 after the Focus had only been on the market 4-5 years???? Remember how Honda and Toyota change just one thing at a time, rather than reinventing the wheel with each vehicle freshening. That has a lot to do with why their quality is so good compared to the Americans. There is no shame with continuing to use something that works. Look at P-51 and ZXMurph's comments about the Golf suspension. Been that MacPherson strut front twist beam cornering on three wheels design for what, 25 years!
 

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Re: It\'s OFFICIAL...get use to the current Focus

Besides... is that such a bad thing? Afterall it shows aftermarket parts developers that they'll have a long time to come to be putting out parts for us... and seeing a long term return on investment...

If I were an aftermarket parts mfg, I'd be loving life now! More potential market!!!!
 

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Re: It\'s OFFICIAL...get use to the current Focus

On the one hand, I don't think it's a big deal.

On the other hand, I see it as a sign of weakness in Ford. They don't yet realize what the small car market in the US COULD be, if somebody just built the right cars. We CHOOSE to keep buying Foci because we want small cars, and we like the fact that a Focus with all options can be a damn nice car.

We could have gotten a deeply discounted Oldsmobile Intrigue for the same price as our LOADED ZTS. But we both WANTED a small car. I like the way the Focus drives, even stock, and I didn't want Tina driving a big boat that's hard to manoever. Neither did she. We got a ZTS with leather, air, power everything, sunroof etc... Everything we need. We could have afforded an entry bimmer, but it really didn't offer anything that we valued. You can get all the basic luxury features in a Focus. I don't place any value on climate control and steering wheel radio controls and all that jazz. Just a waste of money IMO.

If this move is a sign that Ford will decontent the Focus to be an econobox, then THAT is a problem. Only time will tell.

It's also a sign about the health of the NA product engineering group. There's mention about "not having the resources to engineer a new car in NA", and it's very true.

Management keeps talking about wanting to launch all these new programs, but keeps cutting PD staff. It has gotten to the point where it would be IMPOSSIBLE to do another new car here. The fact that they chose to not bring the C1 here, and that they announced more Product Development Engineering cuts to come by the end of the year, tells me that management IS in a cost cutting death spiral.

They're already admit they don't have the manpower to do this car here, yet they announce ANOTHER 10% cut coming.

But then they keep chanting this "product led transformation" mantra...

Where's the beef Bill?
 

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Re: It\'s OFFICIAL...get use to the current Focus

This is the reason we need the Fiesta in the US. Focus is decontented down to Korean car levels (not knocking the Koreans, but their cars are the cheapest), and that kills the percieved value of the Focus. Bring over the Fiesta, raise the price of the Focus 1 or 2K, and then you can make money on it, and not leave the bottom of the market to the Koreans, Toyota, and Chevy (Aveo). Hopefully, if the Aveo does decent, it will convince Ford that we do need the Fiesta.
 

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Re: It\'s OFFICIAL...get use to the current Focus

This is the reason we need the Fiesta in the US. Focus is decontented down to Korean car levels (not knocking the Koreans, but their cars are the cheapest), and that kills the percieved value of the Focus. Bring over the Fiesta, raise the price of the Focus 1 or 2K, and then you can make money on it, and not leave the bottom of the market to the Koreans, Toyota, and Chevy (Aveo). Hopefully, if the Aveo does decent, it will convince Ford that we do need the Fiesta.
Ford just doesnt have the money for it...case closed
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Re: It\'s OFFICIAL...get use to the current Focus

I've said it in another thread and I'll say it here. If you look at total Focus sales, the percentage of cars that are sold to "enthusiasts" is undoubtedly the smallest chunk.

Will this lack of platform enhancement (whether perceived or real) dissuade many future Ford customers from buying a Focus? No.

Will those looking for the most contemporary, euro-influenced sport hatch cross shop the Mazda 3 and Mk V Golf (among others). Absolutely.

Will Ford lose sales to those cars? Yes.

Will those lost sales translate into serious numbers for Ford? I can't answer that question. It looks as if Ford is betting on "No". Only time will tell. I'm sure they have tons of analysts with hundreds of spreadsheets doing the math. Let's hope they are right.

Personally, I'm on my second Focus. I've really liked both of them very much. I've recommend the Focus to countless people. But, being a car enthusiast, I can't see buying yet a third with no real upgrade to any major component or system.

The PZEV looks as if it's going to be a great thing for the Focus and I think that, along with it's excellent driving dynamic, will keep it on the shopping lists of those looking for a small, affordable, fun car. I just think that it's going to be facing stiffer competition.

My next car will probably be C1-based
 
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