Ford Focus to Become a Chinese Import for U.S. Buyers in 2019
There’s a good chance the next Ford Focus you purchase will have arrived via a slow boat from China. Despite abandoning assembly plans in Mexico earlier this year, Ford Motor Company has decided the next-generation model will remain an import, now by way of Asia.
Current Focus production in Wayne, Michigan will be eliminated in the middle of next year to make way for Ford’s upcoming Ranger pickup (in late 2018) and Bronco (in 2020). The automaker assures hourly workers they won’t suffer from layoffs resulting from the changeover, but admits to prioritizing its U.S. assembly plants for trucks and SUVs — vehicles Americans will actually buy.
Official production of the new Focus commences in the second half of 2019, with models coming from the company’s many small car plants across the globe. However, the majority of North American Focus models will initially will come from China, with additional variants eventually sourced from other countries.
For North America, that means further emphasis on trucks and more investments into the segment. In addition to the Ranger and Bronco, the automaker announced it will dump $900 million into its Louisville plant for the new Ford Super Duty, Expedition, and Lincoln Navigator. The Blue Oval was careful to state the investment secures jobs for workers at the plant, potentially as a way to take heat off the China deal.
The joint-venture in Chongquing could be an intelligent strategy. On the surface, abandoning the $1.8-billion development for a small-car plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico for a Chinese solution seems like a lateral move. China requires partnerships and direct involvement for any outside automakers that want to do business within its borders, and Ford will likely receive some negative attention from the Trump administration for outsourcing production.
However, teaming up with China saves the automaker $1 billion in investment costs against the original Focus production plan. It also helps open the door for additional opportunities within the Chinese market, mainly vehicle sales. Ford wants to up SUV volume worldwide and has recently taken steps to get the Navigator into China.
“Large SUVs are attracting a new generation around the world – and we’re finding new ways to deliver the capability, versatility and technology that customers around the world really want with our all-new Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator,” said Ford’s head of global operations Joe Hinrichs. “At the same time, we also have looked at how we can be more successful in the small car segment and deliver even more choices for customers in a way that makes business sense.”
[Image: Ford Motor Co.]
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