LAS VEGAS - Ford Motor Co. calls the hot-rod craze the biggest automotive phenomenon since the 1960s muscle car craze, and it wants the Focus to be a big part of it.
It started this past decade on the West Coast and is dominated by the Honda Civic. Tuners are spending thousands to hike horsepower, improve handling and give their cars attitude.
Ford and the Specialty Equipment Market Association call this the compact performance market.
Ford wants the Focus concepts unveiled at the SEMA show here last week to trigger a wave of performance-related products from aftermarket companies that will attract enthusiasts to the Focus brand.
Chris Theodore, Ford vice president of North America Car, said: 'Many Focus buyers belong to the largest youth market ever, larger than the baby boom generation. The upside potential of the market is mind-boggling. The echo boom generation - which we define as ages 6 to 21 - is the largest segment of consumers in the history of the United States.'
`ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING'
Theodore said at the show on Monday, Oct. 30, that Focus demographics fit those of the compact performance enthusiast: 62 percent are 18 to 25 years old.
The compact performance market is the hottest growth segment in the aftermarket, he said. Sales of compact performance parts have grown from $295 million in 1997 to $756 million last year.
'With the largest generation in history hitting car-buying age over the next few years, the market for aftermarket parts for compact cars could triple,' Theodore said.
He cited a survey by Import Tuner magazine that found 47 percent of compact performance enthusiasts are planning to spend between $1,000 and $3,000 modifying their cars; 18 percent expect to spend between $3,000 and $5,000; and 11 percent will spend more than $5,000.
Ford unveiled three concepts at the SEMA show that showcase the aftermarket modifications possible with the Focus:
1. Made in Detroit Focus: Ford turned a three-door Focus into a panel van. The concept features a more upright rear hatch and a flat top, which provides more usable interior space. Detroit Motor Co., which produces Made in Detroit brand clothing, targets young people who enjoy techno music and industrial culture. The vehicle features metallic leather trim and rectangular skylights. The marketing tie-in with Made in Detroit goes along with the Focus' previous association with other brand names, such as Sony and Kona.
Theodore said that if the reaction to the concept is positive, Ford may produce a panel van similar to it.
2. Focus Flexus: Theodore said this concept signifies what car buyers in the future will look for: versatility, e-connectivity and features such as a foldable loading ramp integrated into the tailgate.
3. FR200: Ford Racing Technology's concept shows how a Focus ZX3 can be turned into a 304-hp hot rod. The concept features a turbocharged four-cylinder 2.0-liter Zetec engine, a 4-inch increase in wheel track and a huge rear spoiler. Theodore said the goal is to have some of the FR200's parts available for sale in a year.