The third-generation Ford Focus will become the biggest-selling car in the world, according to Ford executives.
"We're confident Focus will become the biggest-selling name plate in the world," says design director Martin Smith. "We think we should be able to outsell Corolla around the world."
Although that goal is aided by Toyota's decision to rename the Corolla as the Auris in Europe, the new Focus will become a truly global car. Its chassis and mechanicals will form the basis of up to 10 distinct Focus family models by 2012, a move that will allow Ford to double global Focus-based production to around two million cars a year. It will be sold in 122 countries and has the potential to become one of the biggest-selling Fords in history.
Ford's bosses believe preferences of buyers in major markets - China, Russia and the Americas - are converging to the point where the same carefully honed European car is able to have strong appeal everywhere.
"We'll see people coming to us from Honda, Mazda and Toyota," says sales and marketing VP Jim Farley. "Some Americans are downsizing two car sectors at once - when the fuel price shot up in 2008, the second biggest source of Focus business was from the F truck, and fuel prices are climbing again now..."
In essence, the new four-door and five-door Focus models are the same size as the current cars, with brand new styling inside and out. They will also have the same chassis dimensions and suspension hardware, albeit carefully refined, and new electric power steering that promises improved dynamics and lower noise levels.
Ford has said the cars will be “nearly identical in all markets”, with 80 per cent parts commonality. All of the variants will have common suspension architecture, with regional variations only in obvious areas like wheel and tyre specifications.
The interior is modern and highly detailed, with a driver-focused cockpit layout, a high centre console and lots of emphasis on quality materials and fine detail. It has a ‘technical’ character to go with new levels of cockpit technology in the class.
European buyers will be offered a new direct-injection 1.6-litre Ecoboost (petrol turbo) engine. It should offer better performance than the old 2.0-litre unit, yet “exceptional levels of fuel economy”. Duratorq turbodiesels will be improved, too.
Americans will be offered an advanced, naturally aspirated, direct-injection 2.0-litre petrol motor with double variable valve timing. Again, the new engine will be more economical than its predecessor.
On both sides of the Atlantic, Ford will offer its six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which offers nine per cent better fuel economy than the conventional four-speed automatic of previous Focus models.
The Focus saloon and hatchback are due to be launched simultaneously in the US and Europe at the beginning of 2011. From the beginning they will be made at Saarlouis (Germany), Michigan (US) and Chongqing (China), with production from plants in Spain and Russia being added later.
If, as predicted, demand for C-segment cars grows to exceed 25 per cent in all major markets, the new Focus could become one of the most important Fords in history.