Ford Motor Co. is betting big on small cars. It began the 2011 model-year early with the launch of the little Fiesta model and now comes the next-generation Ford Focus, the compact car the Detroit maker came to the L.A. Auto Show to formally unveil.
Detroit makers have traditionally shunned compact offerings, usually viewing them as low-profit nuisances, more than anything else. But Focus is a critical piece in Ford’s evolving global product strategy, the newest version sharing 80% of its components with the Focus sold in Europe.
That not only improves the business case but has allowed Ford to load up the new 2011 Focus with an array of standard features, such as its Sync voice-controlled infotainment system, noted Ford’s President of the Americas Mark Fields, normally not offered on what is usually positioned as an entry-level econobox.
But that underscores the critical role the 2011 Ford Focus will play, said Fields, noting that the segment has surged from 14% of the U.S. market to 20% in just six years, and will likely keep growing.
Equally important, he said, is the fact that, “This is where nearly 50% of under-30 buyers go for their first car.”
High content will be one selling point, for Ford, but so will fuel economy, one version of the new Focus delivering 40 mpg with an automatic transmission, rather than a manual, the executive noted.
During the L.A. Auto Show preview, Ford demonstrated its marketing strategy, which will include campaigning a wide variety of different Focus variants, including the new Focus ST, which will come equipped with a 247-horsepower version of the maker’s 2.0-liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine. There is also a Focus Race Car, with a built-in rollbar and safety cage.
During the preview, Fields introduced Olympic mogul skiing gold medalist Jonny Moseley, who will become the host of a new reality series that Ford is backing, dubbed Focus Rally America. Designed for “broadcast” online, it will send teams racing around for clues in the new Ford Focus, and two winners will each get one of the cars. Ford is aiming to build buzz with the series’ interactive element, and at the end of the series – which begins in February 2011 – eight online participants will also win a new Focus.