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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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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?

  • Teddyc73 As I asked earlier under another article, when did "segment" or "class" become "space"? Does using that term make one feel more sophisticated? If GM's products in other segments...I mean "space" is more profitable then sedans then why shouldn't they discontinue it.
  • Robert Absolutely!!! I hate SUV's , I like the better gas milage and better ride and better handling!! Can't take a SUV 55mph into a highway exit ramp! I can in my Malibu and there's more than enough room for 5 and trunk is plenty big enough for me!
  • Teddyc73 Since when did automakers or car companies become "OEM". Probably about the same time "segment" or "class" became "space". I wish there were more sedans. I would like an American sedan. However, as others have stated, if they don't sell in large enough quantities to be profitable the automakers...I mean, "OEMs" aren't going to build them. It's simple business.
  • Varezhka I have still yet to see a Malibu on the road that didn't have a rental sticker. So yeah, GM probably lost money on every one they sold but kept it to boost their CAFE numbers.I'm personally happy that I no longer have to dread being "upgraded" to a Maxima or a Malibu anymore. And thankfully Altima is also on its way out.
  • Tassos Under incompetent, affirmative action hire Mary Barra, GM has been shooting itself in the foot on a daily basis.Whether the Malibu cancellation has been one of these shootings is NOT obvious at all.GM should be run as a PROFITABLE BUSINESS and NOT as an outfit that satisfies everybody and his mother in law's pet preferences.IF the Malibu was UNPROFITABLE, it SHOULD be canceled.More generally, if its SEGMENT is Unprofitable, and HALF the makers cancel their midsize sedans, not only will it lead to the SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST ones, but the survivors will obviously be more profitable if the LOSERS were kept being produced and the SMALL PIE of midsize sedans would yield slim pickings for every participant.SO NO, I APPROVE of the demise of the unprofitable Malibu, and hope Nissan does the same to the Altima, Hyundai with the SOnata, Mazda with the Mazda 6, and as many others as it takes to make the REMAINING players, like the Excellent, sporty Accord and the Bulletproof Reliable, cheap to maintain CAMRY, more profitable and affordable.