Home » Ford To Focus: Drop Dead

Ford To Focus: Drop Dead

Focus Dropdead Top

The car you see above is the current generation of Ford Focus, released in 2019, a year after it was discontinued in the American market. By most accounts, it’s a really excellent compact car, arguably one of the best Volkswagen Golf competitors ever made. That probably doesn’t mean much to us Americans, but in the rest of the world, it’s a very big deal—akin to what most families end up driving. Now, however, it’s a market Ford says it’s willing to cede in Europe, as its future is going to be more “American” across the world.

Ford’s marketing chief in Germany, Christian Weingaertner, told Automotive News Europe at a press event that the company plans on dropping the Focus in addition to the smaller Fiesta (which has also been long dead in America, much to our collective chagrin) to concentrate on SUVs, crossovers and even pickup trucks in Europe where the profit margins are higher, as they are in America. Eventually, in Europe, that means an all-electric lineup by 2030, based on current projections.

According to that story, Ford will launch its revised lineup with the slogan “Adventurous Spirit,” which aims to capture the “American values” of  “freedom, outdoors and adventure.” The lineup will include things we’re familiar with like the Explorer, Ranger truck, Mustang, the Bronco, and the smaller Puma crossover, which we do not get and is based on the Fiesta.

In other words, Ford in Europe is about to do what it did in America years ago: phase out the smaller cars and tell buyers they need to invest in pricier trucks, SUVs and crossovers if they want a new vehicle. The Fiesta will stick around until next year and the Focus dies in 2025. After that, if you want a new Ford in Europe, buy a Puma.

Ford has long had a big presence in Europe, and one that’s yielded a wide variety of interesting compact cars and performance vehicles unique to that market. But as this story notes, and crucially, it’s struggled to be profitable in Europe for some time, much as General Motors had trouble there with the Opel and Vauxhall divisions it ultimately offloaded to Stellantis. Some of these SUV-centric moves feel like Ford’s trying to better compete with Jeep in Europe; that brand has actually had a lot of success there in recent years as customers buy into its rugged, outdoors-y image.

Finally, the industry-wide electric vehicle transformation will be expensive. Automakers have to pay for it somehow. In America, that answer, pretty much across the board, has been to get customers into margin-happy big trucks and SUVs while slashing the cheaper, less profitable models. (There’s something ironic about our green future being financed by Ram, Suburban and F-150 sales, but hey, the money has to come from somewhere.)

Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Edition 2023 1600 01

Your new sensible European compact car.

But there’s a bigger, and slightly more concerning point to be made here from this news. Increasingly in America, the new car market is a market for rich people; between supply chain crunches and trends I listed above, the average new car price has skyrocketed to more than $48,000. Want a nice, cheap, new car? More and more, the answer from automakers is “too bad, buy a nice used car instead—if you can find one.” New cars are increasingly out of reach for many people, except those with deep pockets or those willing to take on huge payments over long terms. Now, that trend seems to be coming to Europe as well. And it’s a trend that could continue well into the future, since truly affordable EVs aren’t really on the horizon until battery costs get scaled and R&D costs go down.

Europe, your car market is about to be a lot more American—and I mean that in more ways than one. My suggestion would be to cope with it the way we do: by investing heavily in Punisher decals for the F-Series trucks you’ll all soon be driving.

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57 Responses

  1. “tell buyers they need to invest in pricier trucks, SUVs and crossovers if they want a new vehicle.”

    Ugh! “Invest”? What’s wrong with “buy”? Is “buy” a dirty word now?

    And if Ford want more profit why not just do what they’re doing here: Charge more for the same cars they already sell and blame supply chain issues.

    Besides IIRC those vehicles are more profitable in the US because they are regulated differently. What’s to stop Europe from imposing the same or stricter regulations on these vehicles? Perhaps even guzzler and congestion taxes on the bigger, thirstier vehicles Ford is pushing?

  2. Sigh. I knew this day was coming, but still sad to hear.

    The Focus is I think the best-selling vehicle in the UK. I suspect though it’s a similar situation as it was with the Fusion here in the States…Ford sold a ton of them but at low profit margins.

    1. If the American government would get their heads out of their a– er out of the sand and update the definition of a passenger car, then it would perhaps be profitable to make cars and not cede the whole market to crossovers. It’s ridiculous that automakers making passenger cars are dinged by higher standards while crossovers skate on past.

        1. They are large enough to be classified as “light trucks”, which means they don’t get held to the same standards for fuel economy or emissions as passenger cars.

          …completely forgetting/ignoring that the reason actual light trucks get a pass is because they wouldn’t be used as much as passenger vehicles.

    2. I think the Powershift DCT was what did them in here in the US. Nobody seems to like to drive manual, but that psuedo automatic was terrible. Like Nissan CVT Bad.

      Considering the price to play for those little fellers (Parts and Labor costs have a finite lower limit) it really is not a surprise to me. What is a surprise though is, if the 20K Hybrid Maverick that gets 42MPG and is enough BEV to make many feel warm and fuzzy about helping environmentally? Then why are we not seeing all manner of cars and trucks for 20K using basically the entire chassis and parts but with different sheet metal. you could easily lop off the rear and add a hatch/trunk to a maverick.

      1. It’s a good point re the powershift – when it first started happening, I figured “eh, just a usual bug that’ll get sorted.” And then it didn’t. And kept getting worse. In fact, I read *yet another* class-action law suit has been launched. But the damage to the Ford’s small car brand was seemingly done.

        (My Focus is a manual thankfully)

        1. I remember when the new Fiesta and Focus came out and ALL European magazines were complaining about the DCT. So that’s what, 1-2 years to get the bugs sorted before the NA launch? Ford’s response was they had to get used to driving with a DCT. Sure, DCT’s don’t shift the same but if plenty of people are complaining about it, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

          1. Esp. when it later came out that things unfolded exactly like you’d expect – Ford tried to keep costs down while producing a complex thing that we’d previously associated mostly with high-end performance vehicles.

            The “you guys don’t get this” justification was one of those car company dodges that’s just so infuriating. I don’t think violent shuddering/shaking is considered a normal operating feature in ANY car.

              1. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with a DCT, and never experienced any mechanical problems in three years of driving — and that was on a Fiat 500L, which had a poor reputation. The Porshche PDK and whatever VW calls their DCT have very good reputations and seem to be liked well enough by drivers.

        2. Ugh, my wife has a powershit Focus. I was trying to convince her to get the manual but the sales lady at the dealership swooped in and told how great the DCT was. “It gets the fuel economy and good acceleration of the manual but is as easy to drive as an automatic”.

      2. The best part is that Ford switched back to a regular automatic with the Mk4 Focus we don’t get here. On top of that, you can even get the ST with an automatic!

        It’s almost like Ford did it on purpose to make the excuse that people don’t buy small cars here, even though it was due to the shitty transmission.

      3. Your plan for chopping and repurposing the basic Maverick hardware is a good one, but only works because the Maverick is assembled in Mexico. And it not going to work any time soon because dealers are still marking Mavericks up with $10,000 market adjustments on low spec, lower efficiency gas models!

        Seriously. I drove past a $26,000 Maverick last weekend while out on a road trip. It had a $10,000 “market adjustment” on the sticker, plus I’m sure it carried other dealer bullshit add-ons.

        Yark Ford, in Toledo, Ohio. From now on, we should call out all the assholes who want to screw us over like this.

  3. While I think the Puma is a handsome vehicle, Europe is not designed around cars. I don’t see how their infrastructure is going to support market demands falling more in line with American ones. I couldn’t even imagine parking an Escape err Kuga on a street where Polos and Fiestas can barely fit.

    1. On the other hand, the Escape is only about two inches wider than the current Focus, and the overall length is between the Focus hatch and wagon, which either means the Focus got too big as well, or the Escape is a reasonable option (admittedly, from one experience of parking a Kia C’eed in Oxford, I’m going with the Focus got too big as well).

      Still, if anything, I could see the crossovers making more sense in Europe (given the need for small footprints, it makes sense to build up), while if anything, any shift to EVs in North America would theoretically do better to revert to passenger cars (less need to prioritize footprint, but lower frontal area would help higher highway ranges).

      1. I actually like that they made the Escape more carlike, to the point where it is now literally a tall hatchback…although it seems that many people disagree with me on that. But it’s as if Ford deliberately came all the way back around on their packaging; they got rid of their “cars”, but they also turned their bread-and-butter CUV into a car.

        If they can do that with the Escape, then maybe they can do the same thing with a smaller vehicle that will be a de-facto “Focus”, but please-don’t-call-it-a-car.

        1. I was thinking the same thing…what Farley means by competing in the “white spaces,” right?

          The current Focus car isn’t that much different than the Puma crossover, and the Chinese-market Evos hatchback is very likely the aborted Fusion Active crossover. Neither are the faux-off-road vehicle-looking design that most of us dislike.

    2. That gives us all the funny videos of americans in european rental SUV trying to drive italian streets sized with the fiat panda as the biggest car that fits …

  4. You’re not wrong. What often made it worse from an American pov was Ford’s frequent refusal to sell the good stuff in its home market. The Focus RS comes to mind esp.

  5. First that door chime and now this? Any Ford I may have been on the fence on is now out the window. I may not have any brand loyalty but I sure as hell now have a brand vendetta.

  6. Yeah giving up a market to your competition wont work because the competition will make them, make a higher percentage because no competition, and use the profits to kick Fords ass in the bigger vehicle market as well.

  7. I love small cars. I have a healthy budget (but not Ferrari or Porsche healthy). But there’s nothing I want except toys like the BRZ or Miata, and I’m too frugal to go there.

  8. This is disappointing. I still remember being excited for the Ford Mondeo in the movie “Casino Royale” — not to mention being envious over the various Focuses (Foci?) overseas that the U.S. didn’t get.

    Will the Punisher decals come in Union Jack patterns?

  9. My wife’s focus has been sitting in the driveway for over six months. 85,000 kms. It’s too dangerous to drive. The dealer said they’re waiting for parts. Offered no car so my wife currently has no car. Ford has totally dropped the ball on this one. I will never buy another product from ford. And I wonder how many millions are going through the same thing? Shame on you ford!

  10. So, the Ford mentality is “Like it or not, we’ll build what we think the public needs”, “Shove more crossovers down their throats”, and “Profits at any cost”? Maybe their new slogan should be the retro “Greed is good”. I’ll pass, thank you.

    1. My fear is what crossovers say about the buying public as a whole (not us here mind you) – that people largely now think of their vehicles the same way they do about their washing machines.

      You want your washing machine to wash your clothes and be reasonably reliable; you don’t really care that it looks unique, how it feels to operate it, or what sounds it makes. They all have the same capacity (here in the States anyway), look similar, and cost about the same to run. Very few people have much interest in working on their washing machines when they break. And almost none have any emotional connection to them.

  11. The era when any manufacturer could build “as many as they can sell” are behind us. If they’re limited in production, of course they only want to build the most profitable vehicles.

    1. And manufacturers are specializing more too.

      The days of car companies making one (or multiple) of every type of vehicle are coming to an end as more and more entrants join the market. And that’s good.

      Here in the U.S. at least, the Korean companies have now taken over the niche that Japanese companies held in the ’80s, producing good bang for the buck vehicles at the lower end. Japanese companies meanwhile have moved upscale – higher quality, features, etc. but with a pricetag to match. Meanwhile, the domestics are now trading on both heritage and the future, and the Europeans offer what they usually do – refinement and (the perception of?) high quality. For consumers, it all means more choice.

      I’m sad personally that my beloved Ford is dropping the cars, but it’s in part a sign that the market is working more or less as it should. Ford isn’t flat-out dictating that people must like SUVs and crossovers like Henry might have with car color, it’s the other way ’round.

  12. There is another risk here, in trying to market Ford as an all-American brand in Europe, that isn’t a problem for Jeep. Jeep is American in the public’s mind, so that message works, but the British still see Ford as a British brand (even though they haven’t assembled cars here for about 20 years), and other European markets see Ford as a non-premium German brand just like Opel. To re-educate the public that the brand is American will take a lot of time and effort. Chrysler tried and failed to do that 20 years ago, and its history as a European brand in the late 70’s was very brief compared to Ford’s more than a century as a “local” brand.

    1. It’s always ‘felt’ like a different company to the US branch. We were driving Fiestas, Escorts and Transits, while Ford US was selling F150s and fox-body Mustangs.
      To a European it seems like all of Ford’s good vehicles came from this side of the pond (even the GT-40 😉

      1. You’re not wrong. What often made it worse from an American pov was Ford’s frequent refusal to sell the good stuff in its home market. The Focus RS comes to mind esp.

  13. In the short term, good for Ford, I guess. Buyers seem content with buying pickups, SUVs and the occasional Mustang, but for how long?

    But I can imagine the scene changing. And the Chinese are most likely to cash in with Fiesta and Focus copies, inexpensive, less sporty and likely not as well built. The per-unit profits may not be as great, but they’ll make it up in volume.

    Forcing the public to pay more for unnecessary bulk doesn’t strike me as a long-term success in any case. Some buyers will pay more for a Golf GTI when they would have happily queued up for a Fiesta or Focus ST, too.

    I for one would like to have a Fiesta ST that doesn’t either have 100K+ hard miles or a salvage title in its history. Guess I’ll have to look for a good used GTI….

    1. That’s what I did. An auto journo friend let me sneak a quick drive around the block in a Maverick recently. I liked it, but not enough to deal with the nonsense. Picked up a ’15 GTI 2-door and I haven’t look back.

  14. No S-Max or Galaxy, as they died with Mondeo. But you did miss the Transit/Tourneo Courier (smaller than Connect) and Transit/Tourneo Custom (between Connect and full-size Transit).

  15. So the Focus is going hocus pocus, alacazam and disappear? Man, I do love the Focus RS. This is disappointing, more disappointing than a lump of shit in your stocking.

  16. That’s an unfortunate, and I fear short-sighted decision, both in Europe and the US. I recently purchased a 2012 Focus 5-door with the 1.0L Ecoboost and non-Powershift (Ford’s disasterous dual-clutch trans) automatic for commuting and it’s a great car. I’m actually surprised how much I enjoy the car – I still prefer driving my Grand Cherokee, but on a bad day the Focus will still double the Jeep’s fuel economy and it’s a pretty nice place to spend time.

  17. It seems likely two things will happen. We’ll get to see just how small crossovers and SUVs can get, and we’ll see just how palatable Chinese autos are to Western markets.

    Chinese cars are coming to Europe, and they’ll start off as the cheapest cars available, including small sedans and hatchbacks. This is almost like Ford turning tail and running from the low end of the market before they get their asses handed to them.

    Chinese cars will move upmarket, too, just as the Japanese cars started low and moved upmarket. Pulling the defense on the low end will definitely result in additional pain later. They should keep at least one SKU in each segment, but apparently they don’t have the fortitude to do that.

    1. I was in Mexico City for a bit recently and was amazed at how many Chinese cars I saw around. Most of them looked to be pretty nice, too. That country does seem poised to take over the affordable-car market in America too—if it wants to.

    2. The way in for Chinese automakers will absolutely be to hit established manufacturers where they aren’t, fill the unserved niches first and expand from there

    3. Yeah I’ve said this for a while, any carmaker that abandons smaller and cheaper cars in Europe will just have their market share eaten by the Chinese. Thinking we’ll all just buy bigger and pricier if you don’t offer anything else is just idiotic.

  18. On the surface, this seems like a terrible idea? I guess they are ceding being a niche player in Europe? I don’t see crossovers, SUVs, and pickups becoming dominant vehicles in Europe. Maybe sub-compact crossovers that can fit nicely into crowded cities, but not the others.

    I don’t get it, but I also don’t work in the automotive industry.

    1. Maybe it’s like GM where they just want to refocus (haha) primarily on the NA market? Seems odd, though, as Ford have always had a major European presence and it’s not like they’d sell it off to PSA or anything…maybe they’ll let VAG have it since they already make the new Tourneo Connect anyway.

    2. I bet that’s exactly it – Ford will be all small crossovers in much of Europe.

      The U.S. pickup strategy esp. seems unlikely to work, if only for the fact that it works here in large part to our market (for the big stuff) being protected by 1960s era tariffs.

    3. I don’t get it either. Every other (mainstream) car manufacturer in Europe sells *multiple* small cars. VAG have the Golf, Polo and up!, and that’s just VW. Seat, Skoda and Audi all sell their own versions at slightly different price points. BMW have the MINI and the 1 Series and so on.

      I’m sure Ford have run the numbers, but it seems odd that they don’t want to make small/medium sized cars when all the other brands are selling multiple different options.

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