New Jersey 2012 Ford Focus - NJ Ford Dealer
One of Alan Mulally’s objectives since becoming CEO at Ford in 2006 has been to develop products on a worldwide basis. This sounds familiar, if only because another Ford CEO, Alex Trotman, did the same thing back in the 1990s. This approach resulted in products such as the Contour (not a rip-roaring success) and the original Focus (which was).
In between the Focus going on sale in the U.S. as a 2000 model and Mulally ?taking over, product development in Europe and North America took off in different directions. Hence, Europe was rewarded with a heavily reworked second-generation Focus in 2004. The next year, North America got a warmed-over version of the first-gen Focus sedan and hatchback.
Starting in early 2011, the Focus in both North America and Europe will be the same vehicle. This is to be applauded because there was a big gap between the European Focus and the machine sold here. The European car improved on the basic goodness of the original, with better interior quality and driving dynamics. The U.S. car essentially stayed put: The original Focus was good enough to be a C/D 10Best winner, but the competition moved on, leaving the current version dead last in a recent small-car comparo.
The 2012 Focus certainly looks terrific, especially in five-door form. The engineers and designers felt able to make the Focus sportier (by lowering its seating position and overall height) due to the upcoming C-Max—a tall-roof, five- or seven-seat derivative off this platform—that fulfills the family-car mission. Compared with the current U.S. Focus, the new car is 0.5 inch lower (at 58.1 inches tall) and 3.0 inches longer (178.0 inches overall), and it has a 1.3-inch-longer wheelbase (104.2 inches). The 2012 model’s dimensions are close to the current Euro car’s, save for a wider track and lower stance.
A new body in white employs high-strength steel for 55 percent of the structure, the highest of any U.S. Ford. Torsional rigidity is up by 25 percent over that of the current Focus. Under the skin, the layout of the strut front and multilink rear suspension stands pat, but many pieces are revised. According to Gunnar Herrmann, the vehicle line director for global C-segment: “The carry-over on the platform is effectively only seven percent. We have changed almost everything.”
At launch, the Focus will get a new 2.0-liter, direct-injection four-cylinder that has variable intake- and exhaust-valve timing. Ford says the engine will put out 155 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. Later on, expect a sportier engine. Jim Hughes, the chief nameplate engineer for the Focus in North America, adds, “We’ll eventually get an EcoBoost [turbocharged DI] engine in the Focus.” We’re thinking a 1.6-liter making more than 200 horsepower in a sporty ST model.
The Focus will go on sale with two available transmissions: a base six-speed manual and a very fancy six-speed dual-clutch gearbox co-developed with Getrag. Derrick Kuzak, the global product-development chief, says: “There will be no conventional automatic on this car.” Electric power steering is a new feature, along with “torque vectoring,” which, similar to the systems of many other automakers, uses the anti-lock brakes to approximate a limited-slip differential.
The interior looks like a winner, but there’s a caveat: The styling mockup we examined had hard surfaces, even if Ford assures us everything will be soft-touch in the production version. The mockup had cool piano-black and aluminum finishes and a stitched dashboard. This upscale trim is called “Titanium” in Europe, and it’s hard to imagine that the base U.S. model, which should still retail around the current car’s $16,690 price, will look as stylish.
With options such as a rearview camera, a blind-spot warning system, keyless ignition, a nav system with an eight-inch screen, and an upgraded version of the Sync infotainment system (dubbed MyFord), we can see a Focus stickering well into the $20,000s. Hughes clarifies: “Although we’re trying to maintain the base price, we think there will be pull from people coming down from C/D-segment cars [think Honda Accord, Ford Fusion] to C-class cars—people are downsizing vehicles but not their expectations.”
That’s a prevailing view at Ford these days. But it’s also one fraught with difficulty. People will pay $18,000 or more for a Mazda 3 or a VW Golf or a Honda Civic, but that’s because those cars carry so much brand equity. The average transaction price of a Toyota Corolla is less, and a Focus’s is way lower. No matter how good the car is—and Mark Fields, president of Ford of the Americas, says, “We won’t dumb this one down for the U.S.”—will American consumers pay more money for this latest Focus? If a domestic small car has a chance at challenging the Mazda 3 and the Golf, it’s this one.