By on October 25, 2016

2016 Ford Focus RS, Image: Ford

The buying public wants one. You probably want one. But Ford executives on both sides of the Atlantic are growing cold feet over the idea of a hotter Focus RS.

The automaker is walking back expectations for the proposed RS500 and is ready to scrap the hotter hot hatch (scalding hatch?) idea altogether, Autocar reports.


Rumored to possess about 390 horsepower, Ford’s RS500 would top the already revered RS by 45 horsepower, and there’s no way it wouldn’t handle better. The project is already in the test vehicle phase, at least according to European spy photos.

Now, Ford claims the chances of this vehicle making it to anyone’s driveway stands at just 30 percent. What’s causing execs to pour cold water on what could be a scorching product? Other strong-selling products, including the RS itself.

Sources close to the issue tell Autocar that the RS500 “could be treading on other cars’ toes,” meaning, in this case, the Mustang.

Ford’s American dealer network is reportedly unsure of the RS500, with some worried it could take away some of the ‘Stang’s thunder. Only 40 hp separates the RS500 and V8-powered 2017 Mustang GT, and the V6 and EcoBoost four-cylinder models look puny in comparison.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Ford’s European operation also has doubts. The newly available Mustang sells well and is seen as an exotic prestige car, meaning there’s less of a concern about product overlap, but the RS brand itself could be threatened by the RS500. In response to cool interest from the U.S., Ford reportedly mulled an RS500 with less content — dubbed “RS500-lite” — solely for European buyers, but this idea ended up in the trash heap.

A source told the publication that an RS500-lite would “dilute the RS brand.”

Ford makes a point of selling global vehicles thanks to its “One Ford” strategy and it’s probably curtains for the RS500 if the U.S. won’t sign on. There’s also the possibility that demand for both the RS and RS500 would outstrip the capacity of Ford’s Saarlouis assembly plant in Germany, which had trouble filling orders for 2016 RS models.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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26 Comments on “There’s One Thing Getting in the Way of an Even Hotter Ford Focus RS...”

  • avatar

    I kind of dont see the overlap. One is a 4wd hot hatch, one is an rwd muscle car. I wouldnt think these would be cross shopped.

    More likely the reason they dont want to make an RS500 *right now* is that it would cannabalise sales of the RS and they want to soak the market in the RS before they sell out the 500 x RS500 limited editions… then in the end what does it matter if its only 500 cars?

    Or… the RS is a $40k car as it is, the market for say $55k hatches isnt too good?

  • avatar

    Chevy was (still are?) in the same situation with the Camaro – since they didn’t want to step on the Corvette’s toes.

  • avatar

    It’s marginal revenue, period.

    Why would Ford spend the R&D and company capital to make a niche vehicle maybe 10 people per dealer per year would buy, when eight of those ten additional customers would buy a Mustang anyways ?

    My gearhead side says “build it”. But the businessman in me would have vetoed the project long ago. The Hot-hatch rally segment is dead. The Mitsu Evo is gone, and the WRX has morphed into a Japanese Dodge Charger with half the cylinders.

    • 0 avatar

      I sincerely doubt anybody is cross-shopping any Focus with any Mustang. By this logic, why make the RS when it’s GT money?

      It’s not the Rustang that threatens the RS500; it’s the aftermarket. Ford would probably net a much bigger profit just selling warrantied performance parts. I bet you there are more people willing to spend $5-10K to “chip it, bro” their RSs than pay that much extra for an RS500 altogether. Plus there is something about “making it yours”, even if you’re doing so with the same parts as everyone else :)

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    So just give the Mustang more HP? The we all win. Except for pedestrians, I suppose.

  • avatar

    Who is the intended market for a $45K+ Ford Focus, when you could buy a Focus RS and the difference in cost would pay for mods which would net you FAR MORE than 45HP.

    Limited production runs like the RS500 would work if there wasn’t a mass production car that wasn’t 90% as good sitting on the lot right next to it.

  • avatar

    Surely the RS500 would be low volume enough where it wouldn’t “step on anyone’s toes?” or are they talking mostly about Europe, where the Mustang is itself low volume?

  • avatar

    “and there’s no way it wouldn’t handle better.”

    Ow my double negative brains. Those aren’t rarely not isn’t the answer for writing.

  • avatar

    To me muscle-car people and hot-hatch people typically do not mix. I know there are some Ford fanboys like the Bark who will like both, but I don’t really see the overlap being big enough to be an issue.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      I have owned hot hatches (GTI and R32) and I would like to own a Mustang. There has to be some overlap. However, once you crack $35K or $40K, I am pretty much off the hot hatch bandwagon.

    • 0 avatar

      I think there are a lot of people who:
      1. Have money
      2. Like cars

      But garage space is limited and, money or not, you just can’t figure out how to justify more than three cars. Those people absolutely cross-shop the Mustang and the Focus. Along with the M2 and the Miata and Raptor and every other vehicle under $60K that you might be able to come up with some justification for buying.

      That’s why so many motorcycle people have 5 or 6 bikes. Easier to squeeze them into the garage.

  • avatar

    The RWD part of the current RS’s powertrain is said to be maxed out on its power/torque handling capacity. The expense of upgrading that would be one more argument against developing an RS500.

    • 0 avatar

      I think you hit on the real issue. It’s one thing to take an RS and push it a little further; it’s a whole other ballgame to try to beef up an already expensive RDU for the RS500, with knowledge that those will be modded as well. There seems to be a practical engineering limit (or $$$ limit, either one) that Ford doesn’t want to exceed. It’s a reasonable call on their part.

  • avatar

    “There’s One Thing Getting in the Way of an Even Hotter Ford Focus RS”

    The one thing? The disastrous drive train

    The RS already defaults to FWD only after a few minutes of spirited driving. I’m not sure how the engineers are planning on pouring more HP and ft-lbs into the already undersized and inefficient RDU.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know how brittle the RDU actually is, but if anecdotes bear out then the design margin is almost zero for what the car was ostensibly built to do (hoon). AND Ford would have known that through testing, so why didn’t they beef it up?

      This is almost BMW-level shenanigans.

  • avatar

    What’s the profit margin for Ford RS vs stang?

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