Sharper Focus: Ford Teases a Next-generation Compact With Diminished U.S. Presence

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Ford may have shuffled production of the next-generation Focus to China, but it hasn’t given up on the model entirely. That’s sufficiently good news for small car fans, what with domestic automakers dropping small car models like a scalding spatula.

The 2019 Focus reveals itself in a London, England event on April 10th, but the automaker’s European division saw fit to post a classy black-and-white video in advance of the reveal. While European buyers can look forward to numerous bodystyles, it’s not going to be close to the same lineup over on this side of the pond. Ford wants the next Focus to move slightly upmarket while offering less overall choice. If buyers aren’t taking to the compacts in the same numbers as before, why not try to squeeze extra profit from each vehicle?

So, what can we learn from this teaser?

More than most teasers, actually. You’ll be able to recognize the Focus easily from the front; the model’s wide grille carries over for the upcoming generation, while the headlights adopt Volvo-like daytime running lights that cut horizontally across the unit. Think Thor’s Hammer, just not double-sided.

A shot of the model’s wheel shows what looks like air curtains in the lower front fascia — an aero enhancement with greater fuel economy in mind.

While the fender bulges remain, albeit in a more subtler form, the current model’s amidships character line disappears for a more cohesive appearance. The rear hatch now features more metallic acreage between the glass and license plate. “FOCUS” appears in larger chrome letters below the badge, instead of the lower corner of the liftgate.

Besides the slightly more upscale packaging, Ford plans to offer Americans far fewer configurations of the Focus — a strategy that also applies to models like the Fusion and Escape. The Chinese production switcheroo, plus a higher average selling price, should satisfy Ford’s beancounters in the short term, though consumers with “Buy American” proudly displayed on their bumpers might be put off. For now, Ford has promised only a sedan for the U.S. market. Powertrain details remain a mystery.

One variant Americans will surely want to get their hands on is another Focus RS. The previous model bowed out of the domestic market last year, and limited European production ends tomorrow. Built at Ford’s Saarlouis, Germany assembly plant, the Focus RS became the darling of the hot hatch crowd the second it launched, and rumors point to a next-generation model with mild hybrid assist launching in 2020.

Focus sales in the U.S. rose 11.8 percent in March, with sales over the first three months of 2018 down 4.5 percent over the same period in 2017. The current generation’s first model year, 2012, was its best — Ford sold 245,992 units that year, but volume dropped each year thereafter. Last year’s tally was 158,385.

[Images: Ford Europe/ YouTube]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Conundrum Conundrum on Apr 06, 2018

    Who set up car and electronics factories in China in the first place? China? Naw, it was greedy US corporations out to make a buck in an emerging market, and to flog the cheap excess back to the US. The Europeans followed suit soon afterwards. Americans are the strangest creatures. They forget who did what, and how their own overclass screwed them. Sonehow, they believe now that the Chinese engineered the whole thing, and insist that US corporations operating in China are actually pure Chinese, turn out shoddy product, and the entire blame of lost jobs must necessarily devolve to the Chinese, and not to the "greedy" US corporations who initiated the change in the first place. Talk about cognitive dissonance. Is basic observation and logic not taught in the USA?

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Apr 06, 2018

    Yes, the big multinational corporations are the ones that set up the manufacturing in China seeking less regulation, cheap labor, and cheap costs. Chinese will build anything to the price point so if just cheap is what you are looking for they will cut corners to meet the price point. The Chinese are more than capable of building quality products but will cut corners to meet a certain price.

  • Dartdude Having the queen of nothing as the head of Dodge is a recipe for disaster. She hasn't done anything with Chrysler for 4 years, May as well fold up Chrysler and Dodge.
  • Pau65792686 I think there is a need for more sedans. Some people would rather drive a car over SUV’s or CUV’s. If Honda and Toyota can do it why not American brands. We need more affordable sedans.
  • Tassos Obsolete relic is NOT a used car.It might have attracted some buyers in ITS DAY, 1985, 40 years ago, but NOT today, unless you are a damned fool.
  • Stan Reither Jr. Part throttle efficiency was mentioned earlier in a postThis type of reciprocating engine opens the door to achieve(slightly) variable stroke which would provide variable mechanical compression ratio adjustments for high vacuum (light load) or boost(power) conditions IMO
  • Joe65688619 Keep in mind some of these suppliers are not just supplying parts, but assembled components (easy example is transmissions). But there are far more, and the more they are electronically connected and integrated with rest of the platform the more complex to design, engineer, and manufacture. Most contract manufacturers don't make a lot of money in the design and engineering space because their customers to that. Commodity components can be sourced anywhere, but there are only a handful of contract manufacturers (usually diversified companies that build all kinds of stuff for other brands) can engineer and build the more complex components, especially with electronics. Every single new car I've purchased in the last few years has had some sort of electronic component issue: Infinti (battery drain caused by software bug and poorly grounded wires), Acura (radio hiss, pops, burps, dash and infotainment screens occasionally throw errors and the ignition must be killed to reboot them, voice nav, whether using the car's system or CarPlay can't seem to make up its mind as to which speakers to use and how loud, even using the same app on the same trip - I almost jumped in my seat once), GMC drivetrain EMF causing a whine in the speakers that even when "off" that phased with engine RPM), Nissan (didn't have issues until 120K miles, but occassionally blew fuses for interior components - likely not a manufacturing defect other than a short developed somewhere, but on a high-mileage car that was mechanically sound was too expensive to fix (a lot of trial and error and tracing connections = labor costs). What I suspect will happen is that only the largest commodity suppliers that can really leverage their supply chain will remain, and for the more complex components (think bumper assemblies or the electronics for them supporting all kinds of sensors) will likley consolidate to a handful of manufacturers who may eventually specialize in what they produce. This is part of the reason why seemingly minor crashes cost so much - an auto brand does nst have the parts on hand to replace an integrated sensor , nor the expertice as they never built them, but bought them). And their suppliers, in attempt to cut costs, build them in way that is cheap to manufacture (not necessarily poorly bulit) but difficult to replace without swapping entire assemblies or units).I've love to see an article on repair costs and how those are impacting insurance rates. You almost need gap insurance now because of how quickly cars depreciate yet remain expensive to fix (orders more to originally build, in some cases). No way I would buy a CyberTruck - don't want one, but if I did, this would stop me. And it's not just EVs.