Losing Focus: A World Where Ford's Compact Car Production Stops for a Year Is Our Reality

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
losing focus a world where fords compact car production stops for a year is our

Ford has plans to halt production of the compact Focus — a one-time juggernaut of a model — for an entire year. But wouldn’t you rather talk about the upcoming Ranger and Bronco?

Of course you would. You’d rather buy one, too, if only the resurrected nameplates were already on lots. Back in 2002, when Limp Bizkit was still on the charts and frosted tips hadn’t entirely disappeared from the hair scene, Ford unloaded 243,199 Focus cars to U.S. buyers. Compare that to the first five months of 2017, where 67,146 Foci left dealer lots in a marketplace where passenger car sales are falling like Brent crude prices in 2014.

It’s against this backdrop that Ford plans to temporarily pull the plug on the Focus. While there’s good reason for the shutdown, the automaker doesn’t seem all that concerned about it.

As the market continues its seismic shift, any chance of the Focus continuing its production life within American borders dried up like a spilled mojito on hat asphalt. First, Ford planned to dump well over a billion dollars into its Mexican operations to free up Michigan Assembly for high-value trucks and utility models. That plan bit the dust earlier this year, with Ford claiming it had kiboshed a plant that was already under construction.

Onward to China! Announced last week, future Ford Focus models will arrive in the U.S. by way of a much less costly Chinese joint venture, making them the Buick Envision of the compact domestic car world. Unfortunately for Ford, there’s quite a gap between the time the model needs to clear out of Michigan and when production restarts abroad.

Speaking to Automotive News, Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of global operations, said the automaker is prepared to handle it.

“We’d prefer not to have that large of a gap, admittedly,” said Hinrichs. “We think we’ll be able to bridge that gap with a combination of stockpiling, and the EcoSport coming in, which will help us have another product in that price band.”

Focus production ends at Michigan Assembly in the middle of next year, while the automaker anticipates a Chinese production start by mid- to late 2019. On the first day of June, Ford had 37,4000 Focus models in its inventory, enough for 54 days of supply.

Retooling the company’s existing Chongqing plant for red, white and blue Foci “allows us to free up a lot of capital,” said Hinrichs. Between Chinese production and the cancellation of the Mexico plant, Ford stands to save itself one billion dollars.

[Image: Ford]

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  • Geo Geo on Jun 27, 2017

    Releasing a vehicle that's a huge hit until consumers realize that the transmission has serious problems, then decontenting and refusing to update until the model dies, while refusing to fix the transmission. Doesn't sound like Ford at all.

  • Akear Akear on Jul 20, 2017

    The Focus quality is about to get even worse! Ford is rubbish. Who in their right mind is going to wait a year to buy this dung?

  • Make_light I drive a 2015 A4 and had one of these as a loaner once. It was a huge disappointment (and I would have considered purchasing one as my next car--I'm something of a small crossover apologist). The engine sounded insanely coarse and unrefined (to the point that I wasn't sure if it was poor insulation or there was something wrong with my loaner). The seats, interior materials, and NVH were a huge downgrade compared to my dated A4. I get that they are a completely different class of car, but the contrast struck me. The Q3 just didn't feel like a luxury vehicle at all. Friends of mine drive a Tiguan and I can't think of one way in which the Q3 feels worth the extra cost. My mom's CX-5 is better than either in every conceivable way.
  • Arthur Dailey Personally I prefer a 1970s velour interior to the leather interior. And also prefer the instrument panel and steering wheel introduced later in the Mark series to the ones in the photograph. I have never seen a Mark III or IV with a 'centre console'. Was that even an option for the Mark IV? Rather than bucket seats they had the exceptional and sorely missed 60/40 front seating. The most comfortable seats of all for a man of a 'certain size'. In retrospect this may mark the point when Cadillac lost it mojo. Through the early to mid/late 70's Lincoln surpassed Cadillac in 'prestige/pride of place'. Then the 'imports' took over in the 1980s with the rise of the 'yuppies'.
  • Arthur Dailey Really enjoying this series and the author's writing style. My love of PLC's is well known. And my dream stated many times would be to 'resto mod' a Pucci edition Mark IV. I did have a '78 T-Bird, acquired brand new. Preferred the looks of the T-Bird of this generation to the Cougar. Hideaway headlights, the T-Birds roof treatment and grille. Mine had the 400 cid engine. Please what is with the engine displacements listed in the article? I am Canada and still prefer using cubic inches when referencing any domestic vehicles manufactured in the 20th century. As for my T-Bird the engine and transmission were reliable. Not so much some of the other mechanical components. Alternator, starter, carburetor. The vehicle refused to start multiple times, usually during the coldest nights/days or in the most out of the way spots. My friends were sure that it was trying to kill me. Otherwise a really nice, quiet, 'floaty' ride, with easy 'one finger' steering and excellent 60/40 split front seat. One of these with modern mechanicals/components would be a most excellent highway cruiser.
  • FreedMike Maybe they should buy Twitter now.
  • FreedMike A lot of what people are calling "turbo lag" may actually be the transmission. In this case, Audi used a standard automatic in this application versus the DSG, and that makes a big difference. The pre-2022 VW Arteon had the same issue - plenty of HP, but the transmission held it back. If Audi had used the DSG, this would be a substantially quicker, more engaging car. In any case, I don't get these "entry lux" compact CUVs (think: Cadillac XT4, Lexus NX, BMW X1, etc). If you must have a compact CUV, I can think of far better options for a lot less money. And, no, the Tiguan isn't one of them - it has the Miller-cycle 2.0T, so it's a dog. But a Mazda CX-30 with the 2.5T would fit the bill.