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