Ford will give the Focus a facelift, writes NEIL McDONALD
THE gloves are coming off in the battle for small-car supremacy. Ford has had enough of its slow-selling Focus and plans to slash models and push more value into the hatch and sedan range with special value packs.
Ford president Bill Osborne says sales have been hampered by several issues.
‘‘There’s a lot of complexity in the Focus line-up,’’ he says. ‘‘We haven’t focused on a high-volume model. We’ll try to get a few high-volume models that we can leverage.’’
Having too many models also created stock problems, and exchange rates affected the car. Osborne says the Focus has a lot of currency exposure to the euro.
‘‘When the euro continues to strengthen and the Aussie dollar doesn’t keep up it creates margin pressures for us,’’ he says.
Osborne expects the revised model line-up to coincide with the launch of the freshened Focus early next year. The XR5 has already received the cosmetic updates that will flow through to the rest of the range.
Against its key small-car rivals, the Focus’s sales score card has been average this year.
The Mazda3 is a huge hit and shares the Focus underpinnings, but Ford has sold only 9804 South African-built Focuses against 20,297 Mazda3s. Focus sales have slumped 6 per cent this year against last year. Even the Mitsubishi Lancer is selling better, 11,893 Lancers having sold so far this year. Toyota’s Corolla remains the small-car king by a huge margin — 28,891 sold this year.
Osborne says that once local manufacturing of the next-generation car starts in 2011, the Focus will become ‘‘a lot more competitive’’.
The Focus range starts at $20,490 for the entry CL model, but Osborne wants to drive customers into higher-specification models.
‘‘We’re looking at some special value packs, but in terms of driving more volumes we have to narrow our model range and get a higher-volume, more attractive vehicle, perhaps at a higher price point,’’ he says.
Osborne says customers are moving into small cars but retaining their large-car expectations.
Makeover: the 2009 Focus hatch gets the same front-end design as the XR5 (below).