Re­fo­cused, re­freshed

Ford will give the Fo­cus a facelift, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

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).

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