The 2000 Ford Focus is a small car designed to meet the truck craze head on.
Ford designers and engineers borrowed truck attributes in creating the small car that will replace the Ford Escort in dealer showrooms Oct. 1.
The Focus' high roofline, raised seating position and tall, wide doors are a response to drivers accustomed to the command seating position and roominess of minivans and sport-utilities.
'People look at trucks because of the tall package, good visibility and the ease of getting in and out,' said Richard Parry-Jones, Ford Motor Co. group vice president of worldwide product development. 'Those are the reasons people may not like to stick with a car format. We have made some counter-measures on the Focus.'
The Focus, which debuted at the Detroit auto show, arrives in North America in three-door, sedan and station wagon versions. It already is on sale in Europe.
The three-door model was a late addition to the North American program after Ford discovered young drivers do not share their parents' view of hatchbacks as 1970s-era econo-boxes.
But the Focus U.S. volume lead-er will be the sedan, which will represent about 60 percent of annual sales, said Jim O'Connor, Ford Division president. The station wagon will garner 15 percent of Focus sales; the three-door the remaining 25 percent.
Ford expects to build about 350,000 Focus units annually in North America once the production launch is achieved, said Parry-Jones. Worldwide Focus volume is scheduled to be about one million units.
Except for minor items required by governmental regulation, the North American Focus is identical inside and out to the European model. -
The car rides on an all-new platform. Engine choices are a 2.0-liter, 16-valve double-overhead-cam Zetec four-cylinder engine that delivers 130 hp or a 2.0-liter, single-overhead-cam four-cylinder rated at 107 hp. Manual and automatic transmissions will be available.
Antilock brakes are standard on the image-leading ZTS sedan; optional on other models. Ford still is deciding whether traction control will be offered as a option. Side airbags are optional.
Ford has not announced prices. The company is not expected to veer sharply from the Ford Escort's price class except on the high-series ZTS sedan. Current Escort base stickers range from $11,870 to $13,705, including destination charges.
Ford will target three buyer groups: young professionals, families with young children and empty nesters, said Al Kammerer,M Focus vehicle line director. Marketers particularly want to reach single women in their 20s and early 30s.
The car will be marketed as practical, affordable and safe but stylish and fun to drive.
Ford is stressing the Focus' segment-leading interior roominess. By 2000, men will be nearly a half-inch taller and women a quarter-inch taller than they were in 1990, Parry-Jones said.
Ford expects to get a lot of mileage out of the new Focus platform. The company already has confirmed it will derive a multi-activity vehicle from the platform for the European market. By mid-year, Ford will decide whether that vehicle will be sold in the United States, Kammerer said.