A final goodbye to the Ford Focus, C-Max

A 2012 Ford Focus on the line at Ford's Michigan assembly plant in Wayne, Mich., on Dec. 14, 2011. Photo credit: REUTERS

Ford Motor Co. marked a milestone Friday when the final Focus sedan and C-Max Hybrid rolled off the line at Michigan Assembly Plant -- one the automaker would apparently rather not acknowledge.

The last day of production wasn't met with any official celebration. No TV news crews. No final group photo, unlike other products that have recently reached the end of the road.

In fact, the only recognition of the occasion came earlier this year, in a government-mandated letter to the state listing the amount of time workers will be furloughed as the factory is retooled to build new vehicles.

It was a quiet, unassuming end for two products that were meant to fundamentally change the Blue Oval's U.S. business.

"While we have no intention of giving up our longtime truck leadership, we are creating a new Ford in North America on a foundation of small, fuel-efficient cars and crossovers that will set new standards for quality, fuel economy, product features and refinement," Mark Fields, then-president of the Americas, said in announcing plans in 2008.

But that foundation didn't even last a decade.

U.S. sales of the Focus have fallen every year since its peak of 245,922 in 2012, and deliveries are off 3.7 percent so far in 2018.

C-Max sales hit a peak of 35,210 in 2013 and have fallen nearly by half to 18,390 last year. Sales have plummeted another 29 percent through April.

To be fair, the nameplates have some fans.

There are Focus enthusiasts around the country, mostly thanks to the zippy ST and RS performance variants. And, for reasons that still escape me, my colleague Larry Vellequette remains a steadfast C-Max champion.

But in today's market, they're no longer viable.

Ford reportedly loses $800 million a year selling small cars in North America. And under a cost-conscious CEO in Jim Hackett, cutting those vehicles, along with the Fiesta, Fusion and Taurus, is almost a no-brainer (although the Focus nameplate will live on in the upcoming Focus Active wagon, imported from China).

The most recent generations of the Focus and C-Max were born of necessity, the fruits of a crucial government loan that helped Ford weather the 2008-09 economic meltdown. In return for the funds, the feds expected Ford to build a number of green cars to help meet Obama-era emissions mandates.

In that regard, they were somewhat successful.

The regular hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of each nameplate helped Ford learn more about electrification and battery technology – and helped Ford become the second-largest seller of hybrids in the country behind Toyota. But after a couple of self-inflicted wounds (twice misstating the C-Max's fuel economy) along with problems outside their control (lower gasoline prices and a renewed love affair with pickups and SUVs), the cars' days were numbered.

So farewell, Focus. And see-ya, C-Max.

Two products that once had high expectations have faded quietly into history. And hardly anyone noticed.

You can reach Michael Martinez at mdmartinez@crain.com -- Follow Michael on Twitter: @MikeMartinez_AN

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