Bark's Bites: The Focus RS Is Dead, and Dealers Are to Blame
“You know, that might be the answer – to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of. That’s a trick that never seems to fail.”
— Col. Korn, Catch-22
It never fails. I’ve visited dozens of Ford dealers this year in the course of my day gig, and they almost always have a Focus RS sitting prominently on the showroom floor. Sometimes, they have two. This week, I visited a dealer that had four.
“Hey, I’ve got one of those,” I said to him, pointing at a 2016 Nitrous Blue RS2 model.
“Would you like another one?” he pleaded. “I’m selling it below invoice.” A quick check of his inventory revealed that it had been sitting on his lot for 217 days, with the others eclipsing the 150 day mark — a lifetime at a Ford dealership.
Of course, we know that Ford has already decided to pull the plug on the RS, and they’re gonna send it off with a limited-edition run of 1500 cars with the RS2 package and a Quaife LSD (something the car has always desperately needed). But why? Why did a car that American hot hatch enthusiasts have been craving for decades see such a short existence in the States?
Ford dealers. Duh.
After all, it was scarcely a year ago that we were excitedly sharing reports of the first FoRS to ever hit these shores. Every press outlet from coast to coast wrote breathless takes about “God’s own hatchback.” It seemed like the Focus RS was the closest thing to a sure bet since the Baltimore Colts took on Joe Namath and the Jets in Super Bowl III.
So what did Ford dealers do? They fucked it all up.
They refused to allow test drives of the car. They put them behind velvet ropes, right next to the 2016 GT350R that’s been sitting untouched since Day One. They treated anybody under the age of 40 who was interested in one like they had leprosy. And then, of course, they asked for additional dealer markup, sometimes as much as $10,000 — and when the market balked at their asking price, they stood firm like the musicians on the deck of the Titanic, playing the requiem mass for their floorplan loans.
In fact, a quick search of online third party sites shows that there are still dealers asking for as much as $20,000 above sticker price for Focuses that are getting damned close to celebrating a birthday.
Thankfully, some dealers have finally come to their senses and have begun to sell at MSRP (and, as you can see in the above example, far below MSRP) but, unfortunately, all the shine is off the car. Hot hatch lovers have transitioned their fickle affection to the new Civic Type R. People are starting to figure out that maybe the Focus RS isn’t the best car ever, but merely an excellent hatchback that might have been slightly overpriced from the get-go. So instead getting the RS500 we were hoping for, Ford is acting boastfully about a car that has been, by most measures, an unqualified sales disaster, by announcing a Limited Edition.
Put on your boots, folks, because this is getting thick.
“To satisfy strong demand for the ever-popular Focus RS, I’m very excited that we’re bringing this limited-edition vehicle to North America,” said Henry Ford, Ford Performance marketing manager. “We have spent a great deal of time listening to our customers, speaking to owners’ club members, reading comments and suggestions on enthusiast websites, and even studying various forum Photoshop renderings.”
Let me try to fix that for you, Henry Nepotism:
“To try to salvage some semblance of pride and dignity for ourselves, I’m very relieved to say that we finally realized that a car that’s putting 300 hp to the front wheels needs a decent differential. We have spent a great deal of time being annoyed with our dealers for letting this car rust away inside their showrooms, to the point where the days-on-hand is essentially infinite. So, fuck it, here’s a new color and a diff. Enjoy.”
And now that Ford has announced this special-edition final run with a sticker press that’s a couple of thousand less than the current RS2, well, you might as well put a giant Mr. Yuk sticker on any Focus RSes that are currently languishing in inventory. Would you rather pay $43,140 for a 2017 RS2 in Frozen White, or $41,995 for a 2018 Limited Edition in Race Red? (Please don’t ask me this question. I’m already very sad.)
Of course, you won’t be able to pay $41,995 for a Limited Edition, because, as usual, the worst thing about buying a Ford is the fact you have to buy it from a Ford dealer. Who wants to guess how much additional dealer markup, market adjustment, pound-me-in-the-ass prison variable dealers will ask for on these cars? $5,000? $10,000? $20,000? I mean, as long as you’re asking, why not go for a cool million?
Here’s the Bark prediction: that Ford dealers are going to turn the Focus RS into the Mitsubishi Evo Final Edition — a car that was competitive in its prime, but is still sitting sedentary on dealership lots across America. Put a reminder to check your iCal on July 13th, 2020, to see how many 2018 and earlier Focus RSes are still available for sale as new models at your local Ford store, where quality is assuredly job right behind bending over customers.
427Cobra on Jul 17, 2017
I've always detested the "market-adjusted price" tactic... but caveat emptor. I still think that's what killed the re-launched Thunderbird in 2002. Ok... it was not THAT great of a car... but the "market adjustment" didn't help any either. Being a cheapskate, I tend to favor loss leaders.
Jaybread on Jul 17, 2017
The Albuquerque experience... I go into FCA dealer with a friend that wants to buy a Hellcat. They have 7 Hellcats on the lot. No! You can't test drive a Hellcat. I say..."The BMW dealer down the street and the Porsche dealer up the street will let us test drive stuff right off the showroom floor, and the Audi dealer offered to let me drive an R8 without me even asking, but we can't even start up a Hellcat?" Salesguy..."We have a different class of customers here." We left.
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