While the Ford Focus sedan debuted in Shanghai in ST and Titanium versions, Europe’s automotive press were presented with a slew of five-door models.
Among those are two hatchbacks in the sporty Ford Focus ST and the Focus Active, a rugged-looking variant with an extra 30 mm of ground clearance, plus a station wagon, cars that will all be reserved for the European market, replacing existing models in that region.
The new Ford Focus will go on sale in Europe and China later this year, but the North American versions will not be available until 2019. In fact, in today’s presentations, Ford revealed little about the Focus’s future on this continent, with company spokespersons in Canada saying only that they have “no details to announce for the moment for North America.”
New platform and more spacious interiors
What we do know is that this fourth-generation Ford Focus was developed by the folks at the Ford Technical Center in Cologne, Germany. It makes use of a new platform called C2, to which is bolted a bigger body. A 50-mm stretch in wheelbase means a roomier cabin in terms of legroom, and there is an extra 60 mm of side-by-side shoulder room compared to the previous Focus.
The impression of space is also enhanced by a more generous greenhouse, which now extends to the rear pillar. And, for the first time, Ford will offer a panoramic sunroof.
Today’s announcement told us nothing about the powertrains that will be available in North America. The manufacturer focused instead on new EcoBoost turbocharged gasoline and EcoBlue turbodiesel engines for the Chinese market.
There will also be a new eight-speed automatic transmission and an active suspension, both of which will be offered in some high-end versions.
The new Ford Focus will boast a new set of driver assistance devices lumped under a branding exercise Ford calls Co-Pilot360, using cameras, radar and sensors to increase safety and ease parking maneuvers.
The Dearborn, Michigan-based manufacturer also talked up the FordPass Connect system, which allows the driver to control various functions of the car from a smartphone. This system uses 4G modem technology that can connect up to 10 devices to the Internet.
As before, the Focus’s infotainment features will be controlled through the Sync 3 multimedia system, now with an 8.0-inch color touchscreen that is compatible with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems.
No more production in North America
Focus models destined for Europe will be assembled at the Ford factory in Saarlouis, Germany, as their predecessors were.
Meanwhile, sedans sold in China will be built there, at Ford’s plant in Chongqing. That’s also where North America’s stock of sedans will come from, but it’s not clear where Ford will build Focus hatchback variants for Canada and the U.S. — or if they will do so at all.
Further muddying the future of the Focus for North America is the prospect of aggressive U.S. tariffs on cars produced in China. If the American government puts those in place (a move that could trigger a trade war with China), it may force Ford to rethink its small-car strategy, at least for the United States, which, by extension, could affect the car’s availability in Canada. In this country, the current Focus’s sales pale compared to compact competitors like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Hyundai Elantra.
The Wayne, Michigan production line that makes the current Focus will grind to a halt in May to make room for the forthcoming Ranger pickup and Bronco SUV.
An unveiling focused on Asia and Europe
It is notable that Ford staged no North American press conference to herald the arrival of the new Focus, a move (or a lack thereof) that reflects the marketplace’s declining interest in cars as buyers continue to flock to crossovers, particularly in the U.S.
Indeed, Ford’s president and CEO, Jim Hackett, said in January that the automaker would focus (if you’ll pardon the pun) on SUVs and pickups at the expense of automobiles.
It was in that context that the Wall Street Journal announced earlier this month that Ford would soon axe the company’s smallest and large car models, the Fiesta and Taurus, in North America.
And in December, Automotive News reported that Ford would soon stop producing its Fusion mid-size sedan in North America.