By on October 5, 2017

2017 Ford Focus S sedan - Image: FordRarely does one hear an automaker point out that the next generation of a popular product is headed downmarket.

Even when a vehicle is repositioned in a lower end of the market, “downmarket” is the last word you’re going to hear out of an auto executive’s mouth. Instead, automakers up the value quotient, cater to the demands of discerning buyers, or find new production efficiencies we can pass on to the customer.

More often, automakers tout their new product as a move upmarket. So it is with Ford Motor Company’s fourth-generation Focus, according to Jim Farley, formerly of Ford of Europe and current head of Ford global markets. “It goes upmarket in exactly the same way as the new Fiesta,” Farley says.

Also like the new Fiesta, the 2019 Ford Focus will spawn an Active variant. Subaru Crosstrek here we come?

How Ford breaks down the Focus lineup in the United States, of course, is yet to be seen. While Ford of Europe will continue to build the Focus in Saarlouis, Germany, America’s Focus will sail across the Pacific from China.2018 Ford Europe Fiesta range - Image: FordJust as Ford’s European decision with the latest Fiesta concentrates on more premium content bears no resemblance to Ford’s plans for the Fiesta in North America — the old Fiesta is continuing here for now; the new Fiesta isn’t destined for America — so too Ford’s methodology for Europe’s Focus could differ from the Focus mission in America.

Farley acknowledges that a move upmarket will result in “slightly lower” Focus sales in the future, but that’s a sacrifice Ford is willing to make in order to secure its grip on the C-segment. In Europe, Automotive News says, the Focus is now the fourth-ranked vehicle in the category, not just behind the Volkswagen Golf and Opel Astra but the Golf-related Skoda Octavia, as well.

Stateside, the aging Focus has seen its status plunge as consumers back gradually back away from cars. The Focus is outsold by five compact cars: Civic, Corolla, Sentra, Cruze, Elantra. Focus sales are down 12 percent so far this year in a category that’s down just 4 percent. Its market share fell from 12 percent in 2012, to 11 percent in 2013, to 10 percent in 2014, to 9 percent in 2015, to 8 percent in 2016 and so far in 2017.2017 Ford Focus - Image: FordFarley believes “urban utility products” are an area where the Ford brand’s European division is particularly strong. The degree to which that message crosses the Atlantic will be discovered as Americans reject or accept the new EcoSport.

As for moving the America’s Focus upmarket, it’s a strategy that would likely involve axing models such as the Focus S. The 2017 Focus S sedan is currently marked down to a decidedly downmarket $14,400.

Across the pond, Ford reincarnated the Vignale name with a concept that previewed the Focus CC hardtop convertible. To date, while the Vignale name has been used on top-spec versions of vehicles such as the Mondeo, Kuga, Edge, S-Max, and now the Fiesta, the Focus has not yet received the luxury designation.

[Images: Ford Motor Company]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

34 Comments on “Fourth-generation Ford Focus Goes Upmarket, Spawns an Active Variant Of Course...”

  • avatar

    So. No Fiesta for N.A. and the next Focus will go “upmarket” AND be imported from China to boot. They might as well just withdraw completely from the sedan market.

    • 0 avatar

      The Focus for the US market is actually going *drastically* downmarket. “Upmarket” and “automobile made in China” are mutually exclusive concepts, and Ford has chosen the latter. (And that is the case regardless of where people’s iCrap is made, so don’t even bother going there.)

  • avatar

    “Ford Focus will spawn an Active variant”
    They already have this, its called the Escape.

  • avatar

    Unpainted mirrors and door handles are upmarket now?

  • avatar

    > Rarely does one hear an automaker point out that the next
    > generation of a popular product is headed downmarket.

    This raises the question: can anybody think of any examples where this has happened?

  • avatar

    So charge more for the same s***? Got it.

  • avatar

    So, an “active urban utility product”? Geez, I am getting too old for this nonsense.
    I guess “tarted up economy car” doesn’t resonate with the focus(!) groups.

  • avatar

    Makes sense for an active variant. I’m honestly surprised that so few companies are making them. We have Subaru, VW and now Ford. I’d buy one over the bloated Escape

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      What is bloated about the Escape? Its footprint isn’t that much bigger than the Focus hatch. It is also much more comfortable and spacious.

      • 0 avatar

        A Focus is around 3000lbs, an Escape is 3500lbs

        To put into perspective
        An Imprezza is 3000lbs, a Forester is 3400lbs and the Crosstrek is 3150lbs

        There’s plenty of room for a Focus Crosstrek, especially with a 2.0T

        • 0 avatar
          Adam Tonge

          I agree that their is room. I don’t find the Forester or Escape bloated though. They certainly weigh more, but that is inevitable.

          • 0 avatar

            Bloated may be too strong of a word but after driving an escape right after a Focus, it felt bloated. I wouldn’t mind some extra ride height and awd but would like it to drive more like a Focus

        • 0 avatar

          I dont think CUV buyers are too concerned about weight, what they want is space and the illusion of security.

          For the record the VW Golf Alltrack adds roughly 500 pounds, so it weights near the same as the Tiguan but without the boxy body.

          • 0 avatar

            A Golf Sportwagen 4 motion is 3350lbs the all track is only 75lbs heavier. It seems AWD is the heavy part but that’s fairly well known.

  • avatar

    I hope “upmarket” is marketing speak for getting rid of the awful dual-clutch powersh*t transmission and providing as much interior room as the Civic and Elantra.

    • 0 avatar

      The Focus has issues specific to itself, aside from the general trend away from cars and toward CUVs.

      #1 – The PowerShift transmission has destroyed consumer confidence in the car. Honestly, this is affecting sales. It’s hard to say how much, but it’s a real factor.

      #2 – The car has been almost unchanged since 2011. The facelift wasn’t bad, but it was not very deep.

      #3 – The interior is tighter than competitors. The instruments are a problem area that wasn’t fixed. The interior feels cheap overall.

      I think Ford could fix these issues if they wanted to, but my confidence level on them actually doing it is low. If anything, I expect reliability to decrease slightly, quality to decrease slightly, interior room to go up slightly, cost to stay about the same, and driving involvement to decrease significantly.

      All in all, I think the sales will level out about where they are now, or slightly lower. I don’t think Ford really cares about this model, and I don’t expect much investment. I said something a few months back about the 2011 Focus driving so well it seemed like a mistake. This is what I meant … I was surprised that Ford really delivered on that front with an economical car, because it’s not a core part of their strategy in the US. And I now expect Ford to drop the Focus’ sporting “edge” with relatively little provocation.

  • avatar

    Hope they kill the ST off for North America.

    Anything that would give mine even a hint of resale bump would be greatly appreciated.

    Ford stinks.

    • 0 avatar

      Would it? Or would you just be left with a depreciating orphan nobody wants because parts are impossible to source and there is no aftermarket support for a dead vehicle in limited numbers.

      • 0 avatar

        The parts issue will be there whether or not they offer one in the new car as the majority of parts wouldn’t fit the old car anyway. Sure you might be able to swap wheels and maybe some basic engine bits. Being a performance model aftermarket support will be better than more common but pedestrian vehicles.

  • avatar

    I expect the Chinese built Focus sold in North America to be a roomier but cheaper car competitive with the new Corolla. My understanding is that Europe will still send the upscale hatchbacks to North America (Titanium, ST, and RS).

  • avatar

    I’ll buy a Focus Crosstrek ST tomorrow.

    So that’s one.

  • avatar

    Are we effectively getting a gen2 Chinese Escort? I’d be curious to see what the thing might look like in the flesh.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Oberkanone: How much is the penalty for returning it without fully charged battery? What is the pre-payment charge...
  • Tele Vision: I’m glad that this Brady fellow was identified as some sort of footballist. That must be a draw...
  • dal20402: My prediction: these will be focused on major city airport locations, where they will install a large power...
  • dal20402: My prediction: these will be focused on major city airport locations, where they will install a large power...
  • golden2husky: Being socially conscious might resonate with a portion of Tesla owners. But for most people who buy...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber