By on January 10, 2011

Rather than host its event at a booth-side stage, Ford booked the Cobo Arena for its highly-produced (yet not without its stumbles) presentation. It began with the usual corporate propaganda, centering around the “One Ford” theme and highlighting the Blue Oval’s global operations. Then Alan Mulally zoomed into the middle of the arena in a 2012 Focus ST and, to gales of spontaneous sycophantic applause, began introducing the K-Car-like range of future products based on Ford’s Global Compact platform.

Mulally’s choice of the bunch would have been mine as well. Jack Baruth has walked us through the US-bound ST, but it looks far better in the flesh than earlier press shots indicated. That fishy mouth makes the ST look like Aston-Martin chose the Focus to become the Cygnet’s big brother before giving up after designing a grille. Next to its fellow Focus models, the ST looks like a member of the family, while retaining a distinctive identity.

Next on the agenda were the C Max twins, the plus-sized cousins of the family Focus. The C Max Five Passenger showed up on cue, but the C Max Seven Passenger (Grand C Max for you Euro-types) didn’t show. Ford’s Derek Kuzak broke the overproduced feel of the event when, realizing that he would be alone on stage with the five-passenger model, he walked towards where the larger C Max should have been with an awkward “let me just go on…” To his credit, Kuzak did a fine job pretending that the vehicle he was describing wasn’t supposed to be there.

Luckily, Ford had a “surprise” up its sleeve just after the C Max misstep, with the debut of its “Vertrek” Concept, which previews the second-generation Ford Kuga which will replace the Ford Escape in the US. It looks quite a bit like a sleeker update of the Kuga… in other words, nothing like the rugged-looking (and still popular) Escape. If, as anecdotal evidence seems to indicate, the Escape sells well because it looks like an SUV (compared to the CR-Vs and Equinoxes of the world) but gets decent mileage, this is a risky direction for the US market.


The final portion of the conference involved Ford’s rollout of its electrified, hybrid and plug-in hybrid C-segment models. A video featuring Ed Begley Jr dished out thinly-veiled but toothless snark at Nissan’s Leaf and GM’s Volt, before declaring the butterfly the new symbol of Ford’s green vehicles (because previous Ford hybrid displays used leaves to symbolize efficient driving, an image Ford no longer wants to push for Nissan-related reasons). To (somewhat ironically) illustrate the point, thousands of paper butterflies were then released from the ceiling as the Focus EV, C Max “Energi” Plug-In Hybrid and the C Max Hybrid rolled into Cobo Arena. Ford didn’t give solid EV range stats on the C Max Energi but they did claim that the five-passenger plug-in MPV would offer better charge-sustaining mode efficiency than the Volt and a 500 mile total (gas and electric) range.

The event ended with all ten Compact models on the floor (as well as thousands of paper symbols of environmental sensitivity) as a scrum formed around Alan Mulally. Having bought a first-generation Focus as my first new car, I certainly could see the appeal of Ford’s Euro-derived C-segment revival… but having seen the sales numbers, I also know that Ford’s first attempt at selling Americans on its Euro-Focii fell well short of the cheap, utilitarian Escort. Ford’s gamble looks good, offering numerous flavors of what should be a pretty competent chassis…but even in the rocking atmosphere of Cobo Arena, it’s impossible to forget that this ambitious assault is by no means a sure thing.

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54 Comments on “NAIAS: Ford’s (Un)Common Compacts...”


  • avatar
    colin42

    That ST appears to have 2 too many doors!

    So they are planning to sell the wagon in the US as well – My interest has just increased

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      The red wagon is most likely a C-Max EV, which doesn’t have sliding rear doors.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Personally, I’m glad the ST gets four doors.  Just because you want fun to drive doesn’t mean you also don’t want to be able to, eg, put friends or children in the back seat.
       
      I’ll also chime in, somewhat snarkily, and say that the “two doors = sporty” is a very old-school mode.  Cases in point: WRX STi, Evo, Neon SRT-4, MazdaSpeed3 and so forth versus “elder statesmen” like the retro-appeal pony cars, high-priced metal unavailable to the young and front-drive “personal luxury coupes”.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      I am happy it is a 4 door.  I have 2 small children, 2 door cars are out of the question.  In fact, it might be my next car.  I want to see it live and in person first though.  See how much of its European flair it loses.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I was going to say I like the red wagon. As long as it isn’t as tall as a mini-van I would look at one used.

    • 0 avatar
      colin42

      the C-Max in the photo’s is silver. The red vehicle looks like a wagon – it has a very similar style to the Mondeo wagon currently available (everywhere except NA)

    • 0 avatar
      faygo

      in the new C346 generation there is no 3-door Focus offered in any model in any market.
       
      the red wagon is likely presented to show the full range of Focus-based products to be sold worldwide, as yet there has been no mention of the wagon variant being offered in the US.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      another vote for the big red wagon.  Considering practically nobody sells anything like it in NA anymore, Ford might do well to bring it over.
       
      As for the new Escape, I like it, but it looks a  lot like the rest of the CUVs on the market.  Ford might have been better off to keep the rugged-looking CUV market to itself instead of chasing the herd.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Love the wagon from that picture. Hope it comes here with a manual transmission. Turbo diesel too please?

        Ford needs to also market a more conservative front bumper/grille combo as well. Not everyone wants or likes the Darth Vader front end. Wouldn’t difficult – same steel beam, just different plastic. Don’t tie it to any special packages or limitations – just make them interchangeable with interchangeable prices. It’s a 15 min changeover on my VW and Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      SecretAznMan

      Whoa, Ed.  The wagon was kinda a big matzah ball not to mention whether or not they plan to bring it stateside or not.  I know I wasn’t the only one totally entranced by the red wagon trying to determine if it was indeed the wagon variant.
      I felt a bit bummed for a second speculating that they might bring it over and that had I just bought a 9-3 wagon.  But that only lasted for a second.  The 9-3 was probably cheaper than an equivalent Focus would be.  Also, Ford’s direction with their dashes and instrument panel are just a bit too futuristic for me.  I think they’ll actually look pretty dated in 5-10 years whereas classic knobs and gauges are well, classic.

    • 0 avatar
      Bimmer

      Another vote for the Red Wagon! Hopefully it will be offered in Canada, so I could look forward to replacing my sedan few years down the road with used one of this.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Thankfully, this platform is 3 generations more advanced than the K-car.  It sure looks like a lot to chew on.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Let me go on record, it will be a sure thing.  (And I have nothing to gain by making this statement.)

    I don’t agree with the K-car comparison, no way that the K-car had this level of quality or differentiation, and the problem is that for a time (although right for its time) everyting Chrysler did seemed to be identifyable as some (shall I say thinly-veilled) variant of the K-platform. But otherwise a nice review, thanks.

    btw, the Grand-daddy of the C1-platform off which all these vehicles are descended spells his name Derrick (eselbrücke: Der rick), not Derek and he is about as authentic a guy as you are ever gonna find at the top of an auto company (not really good material for high-concept production, but that is more than compensted by his being one competent and clever engineer-businessman.)

    • 0 avatar
      Silvy_nonsense

      “I don’t agree with the K-car comparison”
       
      I think Ed. just meant that the K-car platform spawned about a million different product variations. I doubt he meant to imply that these Ford products were otherwise comparable.

  • avatar

    The price is going to decide.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Gas was $3.15 a gallon last Saturday around here, and we aren’t even in the summer driving season yet. If these cars are as good as they look, I believe that Ford has several winners on its hands.

  • avatar
    mvlbr

    Time to trade in the Mazda 3 for that new Focus ST.

  • avatar
    Autojunkie

    And still the killing of the 2-door/3-door car, in this country, continues right along with the manual transmission.

    • 0 avatar
      faygo

      there has been no mention of dual-clutch in the ST to date, only the normal 6-speed.
      the regular Focus is available in the online configurator thing, IIRC you can only get manual in the lower trim levels, which is unfortunate.

    • 0 avatar
      KitaIkki

      The car-seat requirement killed the 2-door/3-door cars.  It took the “young family” demographic out of the market.   Two door cars went from “safe for kids because they can’t accidentally open doors” to “impossible to properly strap a child in the backseat”

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Even without carseats, it’s still no fun to try and cram kids into a two-door.  When I was a kid I hated them, and when I became a parent I hated them even more.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Our kids have done just fine riding in a VW Cabrio. The babyseat was a difficult time and we avoided driving the VW in favor of our 4-door. However since the youngest has been using a booster seat, it’s been great. Where it is losing out again is dropping the kids off at school. I have to put the car in neutral, set the brake, climb out of the car, etc. The four door wins but it’s not like getting out of the car for a kid drop off is a big deal. My wife and I car pool so somebody has to get out. If she goes to work in the other car to work different hours than usual, then we’re back to easy.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      You should have had a Honda; the Accord hatch front seats would fold up and slide forward (and go back into place) so getting into the back wasn’t so hard.  I didn’t see that feature on many two door cars over ten years later.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Is North America ready for the $25,000 Focus?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      A Cobalt SS started at 24.5k.
       
      Honestly though, I expect this to do ok.  There are a large price range here for the Focus and if gas prices go up, 40 mpg is going to look really really good.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      If it doesn’t look like complete a$$, maybe. Most small cars, to me, have always looked terrible. I know looks are subjective, but this is one reason I’ve never really liked them. It looks like the 2012 Focus looks like something I’d drive…in a few years.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      Prices will probably start in the 16K range for a base sedan with a trunk, once whatever seasonal offering is applied,  You’ll know which one it is on the dealer lot by its off color and steel wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      Silvy_nonsense

      Yes. Ford sales data from the past year suggests that people are willing to pay for “premium” features/options on cars, regardless of the size/market positioning, etc of the car. Buyers of small cars want nice things, too.
       
      The top dollar versions will not be the biggest sellers, obviously, but Ford will make as much profit on one of those as on several mid level trim versions.
       
      What makes more profit? 10 stripped-out, base model, white fleet sale F-150′s or one F-150 Harley Davidson (King Ranch, etc.) edition? Discuss.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Old and Slow – just go to Fordvehicles.com and use the configurator tool for the 2012 Focus – goes from $16K to $26K (Titanium Hatch with extra handling pack). Good tool. Very wide spec and price range.

  • avatar

    So did they announce a turbo engined Fiesta?? Now that would be tuff to beat

  • avatar
    akitadog

    I’m really liking both the 5-door ST (6-speed stick?) AND the Focus wagon. Problem is, my next car needs to have more room for kid stuff, so if I had to choose, it would be the wagon. I’m not doing ANY utes, no matter how “cute” they may be.
     
    Ford, you want my money? ST FOCUS WAGON please.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Depending on gas prices, which are bound to go up, I think Ford has many winners on their hands here.  Several different small vehicles to choose from which will likely be excellent at the pump.  It will be interesting to see them in person as well.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    Meanwhile Toyota isn’t sitting idle either. There are rumors of four Priusses in our future: the current one; an extra-large Prius; a miniPrius; and  plug-in one…

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all, but Toyota’s lineup doesn’t look nearly as good as Ford’s.  If Ford can top the build quality of Toyota (not a difficult task based on what I’ve seen of Toyota in the past several years), then they should do real well with the new line-up.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Back in 2007, Ford had the oldest model lineup in North America.
    By the end of 2011, they will have the youngest.
     
     

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Nice. I see the red wagon specially useful (I’d buy one). Reminds me the 9-3 SportHatch, which is another wagon I like.
     
    Regarding the Escape/Kuga, I think they showed the concept to measure public reaction to it. If positive, you might see a Kuga in the US. If not, you might get a rebodied Kuga sold as Escape.
     
    I don’t like the Kuga/new Tucson, I prefer the shape of the Patriot or previous Compass, or the Freelander (or whatever LR# is called) which look more the SUV part. Even the Rav4 looks more like an SUV.
     
    And I saw One Ford references everywhere when I went to the local Ford site last year.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    I love how everyone went for the wagon. That’s where my eyes were drawn as well.

    This lineup is a very brave move by Ford and they should be applauded for having the gumption to venture in this kind of direction.

    By the way, the Escape replacement looks a little over-stylized to me. It will be interesting to see it first hand.

  • avatar
    ronald

    What is the difference between the Edge and the new Vertrek? The Edge is a bit bigger, right? But they still look to be quite similar (and chasing the same buyer, no?)

    • 0 avatar
      faygo

      Vertrek = Escape/Kuga.  Edge is larger in all dimensions and appeals to a different buyer one would presume.
       
      Both Escape and Edge do reasonably good business in the market now, so the assumption is that that would continue.  given that a new Kuga would be required for Europe anyway, federalizing it for sale in the US is not that much of a risk.  Edge would not be competitive in Europe due to it’s larger size and lack of small/diesel powertrains.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      While looking for used CUV over the summer, I gave the Edge a first look.  While attractive enough compared to the Escape, there was no option for a manual transmission.  Furthermore, it is only available with a V6, which makes for a very cramped engine compartment.
       
      Ironically, the manual option on the Escape/Tribute is only available with 4 cylinder, which yields a 4 cylinder mounted into an engine bay designed for a larger six.  If you’ve ever seen the bill for replacing the alternator on the V6, which gets cooked by the nearby catalytic converter, the extra repair access on the 4 cylinder Escape/Tribute is a plus.

  • avatar
    akitadog

    Anyone else notice that the only vehicle on that stage without a liftback was the Focus sedan?

  • avatar
    GalaxieSun

    Ford can make a strong business case for the Kuga if they communicate that it provides the same cargo capacity (or larger) as the Escape and if the rear seat package is as accommodating.  While some compare it to the Tucson, IMHO it looks less egg-like with its distinctive shoulders and larger DLO.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      I know that Ford eventually needs to move on – but the boxy rear hatch and load area of the current Escape will be missed.
       
      I have the Mazda Tribute version of the Escape and one thing I noticed that the Edge because of its shape doesn’t really have more room with the rear seat folded flat.  It’s a wider vehicle, but some of that width is wasted on a taller and wider center console that dovetails in with the My-Ford touch screen center stack.  I also miss the lack of  a manual transmission option.
       
       

  • avatar
    ehaase

    I would buy the wagon.  I have no interest in the Escape or C-Max.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Ford needs to more homework on the dual-clutch software – Fiesta owners aren’t that impressed – if you browse the blogs n tweets.

    New Hyundai Accent/Elantra will offer dual-clutch with a standard 10 year powertrain warranty – I know which I’d prefer to gamble with. Also the new Elantra will offer front AND REAR heated seats compared to the Foc’ and Fie’s front only. Hyundai’s also in there offering all-wheel discs and available back-up camera.

    • 0 avatar
      SV

      Honestly, I question whether anyone who needs a backup camera in a compact sedan should be driving at all.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Just sell me a regular old fashioned stick and clutch pedal please. Make it a five speed plus one extra gear = six instead of a closer ration transmission that leaves me shifting constantly. That’s all my current CR-V needs. One extra gear.

  • avatar
    SV

    I wonder if Ford’s actually selling the wagon here. They’ve previously denied it, and the wagon on the stand is definitely a Euro-spec model, but the fact that it’s there at all makes me wonder. If they still don’t intend to sell it here and brought the wagon to Detroit anyway, well, that’s a bit of a dick move on their part.
     
    As for the rest of the lineup, I’m very intrigued. The new Focus is a vast improvement over the current one (like that’s difficult) and should do well. One thing that worries me though is that interior dimensions are down compared to the current car: passenger space has dropped from 93.4 cubic feet to 90.7 and the rear seat has lost an incredible 3 inches of legroom – though the measurement methodology could just be different (from what I understand there’s some leeway in how legroom/headroom/etc. are measured).
     
    The Vertrek/Escape looks good and will undoubtedly be a vast improvement over the current car like the Focus, but I also wonder if losing the boxy trucky look of the present model will hurt more than help. On the other hand, truckyness and discounts are probably the Escape’s primary appeals at the moment; this new model should add quite a few more features (handling, interior quality hopefully, gas mileage) to lure buyers in.
     
    I’m most impressed by the C-Max range though, especially the hybrids. If they can keep the regular hybrid somewhere around $25k, they’ll have very good challenger to the Prius (or more directly, the rather unappealing Prius V). Meanwhile the Energi will be a bit of a slap in the face of the Volt if it manages to equal or beat it on the green front with virtually zero hype in comparison.
     
    All in all, it’s promising. The main question is whether the new Focus and Escape succeed with their more premium positioning; in comparison the EVs/hybrids are peripheral interests at most, if still well worth watching.

  • avatar
    SVT48

    As hard as it may be to believe, some of us actually buy SUVs or CUVs, etc. for the “U” (utility, for those who may have forgotten).  The sloping rear roofline looks great and probably improves the aero numbers but cuts into the ability to get large boxy items into the vehicle.  My Honda Accord coupe can take a 10 foot piece of pipe or 2×4 inside with the hatch closed but I couldn’t get a kids 20″ bike through the trunk opening.  My wife’s Mariner will take items like that easily.  Also, most cars today have a tow capacity of 500 pounds which is about the weight of an empty boat trailer.  If you want to haul a small fishing or ski boat, you better be able to tow 2000 pounds or better.  I know it’s an unusual concept to actually use the capability of these vehicles but I can’t believe I’m the only one.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    There is a difference between releasing one world car, and releasing ten world cars. When Ford did their world car stuff a generation ago, it did not look like a trend, it looked like a one-off fad.

    Releasing ten new world cars into the US market changes the market dynamics however. If a buyer understands that the vehicle they are purchasing is not going to be too exotic to maintain, Ford can win them over.

    Also, the look of these vehicles is so similar to current vehicles on the road, stylewise, that they look contemporary without looking exotic. This also helps Ford.

    Ford went with a soft style for their pick up trucks twenty years ago, and got caught on the wrong side of the wallet when the market flipped for mini-Kennworth truck stylings. In many ways, the old F-150s appear more modern than their current F-150s. Hopefully Ford has recognized that their butts are exposed with this style and have a Plan B if the market prefers a more hard-edged style. While this is a different market, the current Escape has it’s styling fans willing to buy again. The Honda’s feminine CR-V may be top seller now, but that doesn’t mean the Escape needs to mimic it’s limp-wristed appearance.

    I wish Ford well.


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