Ford of Europe’s rejuvenated model range, on display at Auto China 2004 in Beijing this week, includes what appears to be a production-ready Focus four-door sedan from the all-new 2005 European model line due out later this year. That range now appears destined for sale in all major world markets outside North America.
Centre stage in Beijing, the ‘Concept’ “hints at what will become the most sophisticated Focus to date”, according to its maker.
The display car has many styling similarities to the recently launched European Focus C-Max minivan, the first of the new model line to appear on a redesigned platform shared between the 2005 Focus, Volvo’s recently launched S40/V50 range and the Mazda 3.
Unlike the 2005 model year US market Focus line, which is little more than a mild restyling and specification rework of the 2004 North American range, the 2005 European Focus is fully redesigned and is expected to be launched around Paris motor show time in late September.
The concept sedan is being displayed in Beijing alongside other European models, including the Fiesta, Fusion Plus, Focus C-Max and Mondeo 2.5-litre Duratec V6, which is built in both mainland China and Taiwan, and making its debut as the flagship model for the Chinese Ford range.
Ford is also showing models from its Lincoln, Mazda, Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin operations.
“This show of strength in Beijing underscores Ford’s growing commitment to what is fast becoming the world’s most dynamic and exciting marketplace [and] also highlights the key role of Ford’s European product development team in meeting the needs and aspirations of rapidly increasing numbers of new car consumers in Asia,” the carmaker said in a statement.
“Vehicles developed by Ford of Europe are pivotal in the company’s strategy to compete successfully and expand its presence in the Asia-Pacific and African markets”, said Ford of Europe chairman and CEO Lewis Booth.
“Our role promises to increase dramatically, and the new four-door Focus Concept hints at what is to come for the new generation of Chinese car buyers”.
The statement added that China and Asia-Pacific are now at the epicentre of global growth, and medium sized passenger cars are the core of its major markets. Therefore, Ford of Europe’s role is becoming fundamental to the company’s progress there and new models under development in Western Europe are now being designed and engineered from the outset to meet the specific needs and aspirations of these demanding customers.
Ford, which earlier this week announced plans to triple output from its Chinese car making joint ventures, said the European-designed Mondeo is proving particularly popular with Chinese customers and the car is sold out until September.
“Asian consumers are no less demanding than our European customers when it comes to choosing a new car,” Booth said. “They are well informed and discerning.”
The car maker said the emphasis for the future is on the medium sized sedan segment, particularly in China.
This is in contrast to the European market where sales of volume-brand medium sedans like the Mondeo and its GM Europe Opel Vectra rival are falling in favour of ‘premium’ models such as BMW’s 3-series and Audi’s A4, the sector volume as a whole is falling as more alternative niche models (such as coupe/cabriolets) go on sale and, in northern Europe, buyers usually prefer five-door hatchbacks to four-door sedans.
Ford said that sales volume for the so-called C-segment (the Mondeo is in D-segment) is expected to double across the Asia-Pacific region over the coming decade, and added that its new Focus sedan would “have all the right credentials to make it play a major role in the segment’s rapid development”.
The current Focus, now effectively a ‘world car’ for Ford, is said by its maker to be among the most successful products in its 100-year history.
Since introduction in 1998, the Focus has consistently ranked among the world’s best-selling cars and has won Car of the Year awards in both Europe and North America, and continues to shine in Europe’s markets. It has also been introduced recently in Asia-Pacific markets, including Australia and New Zealand, displacing a Ford-badged Mazda 323-based Laser model line, first launched over 20 years ago.
“We exceeded all of our sales objectives for the Focus in the first quarter of this year, and we’ve had to increase production to meet the demand,” Booth said.
Last year, the European Focus range was extended with the introduction of the C-Max minivan (aka MPV or ‘people-mover’) that introduced new levels of interior quality to the Ford model line along with a new ‘family face’ also used on the new Focus Concept sedan.
Ford claims the Focus Concept was designed specifically for Beijing and is “a style-leader for a new generation [European] Focus range”.
Ford Asia-Pacific design manager, Paul Gibson, played an integral role in the design of the new-generation Focus while working at Ford’s product development centre in Cologne, Germany, and has led the development of the four-door concept.
Gibson’s objective was to design a unique sedan for the Asian customer that is an “authentic European car with an Asian flavour.”
The concept’s distinctive front and rear lamps were developed in conjunction with Osram Opto Semiconductors, and utilise the latest LED technology. When illuminated, the high output head and fog lamps appear as a continuous ring of cool, white light but this innovative technology won’t apparently be used on production cars.
“The LED headlamps are unique to the Focus Concept,” said Gibson. “The continuous ring of light is completely different to using a conventional bulb and parabola. Even when switched off, the head and fog lamps have the depth and quality of deep glass.”
At the rear, a three dimensional lamp design combines the aesthetics of innovative new LED technology with the benefits of increased light distribution and efficiency. When lit, they also produce a clean continuous light but with distinctive bubble detailing.
“Home to more than half of humanity, the Asia-Pacific region is infinitely diverse and our efforts recognise that,” said Ford Asia-Pacific and Africa executive vice president Mark Schulz.
“Over the coming year, new Focus will go into production at multiple locations across the region, and at each site you’ll see increased local sourcing and an integrated manufacturing approach to serve the region’s needs.”