Ford Motor Co. is determined that its 2012 redesigned Focus will be flawless out of the gate.
The automaker has been road testing the first Focus units built near Detroit for 30 miles before shipping them to dealerships nationwide.
Ford builds the compact cars at its Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne, Mich.
For the first batch, Ford took the cars to a Dearborn test track where drivers assessed them for 30 miles each, Ford spokesman Said Deep said. The cars were then taken back to the Wayne plant for more inspection before being shipped to dealers. The Focus went on sale this month.
Jim Hall, managing director of 2953 Analystics, a consulting firm in suburban Detroit, said such extensive testing is more commonly done on high-end cars.
'Porsche does it'
"Porsche does it to every car they build," Hall said. "It's unprecedented for this road testing to be done on an entry-level vehicle and it's genuinely puzzling. Is this the way to make sure you have a painless launch and that molding won't fall off in 500 miles?
"It's impressive, but it indicates there might be other issues they're not talking about."
Ford officials told members of the Ford National Dealer Council it was road testing each Focus to ensure a "flawless launch," says a dealer who attended the council's meeting last week in Dearborn and asked to remain anonymous.
"We asked, 'Is there a problem?' They said, 'No. But this is such an important launch and with gas prices rising, having this 40-mpg car launched now is perfect timing for us.' They don't want any problems," the dealer said.
Most assembly plants have short test tracks to make spot checks of vehicles after the vehicles leave the production line.
Deep did not know how many Focus units were road tested. He declined to say how much it cost the automaker in extra manpower and transportation to evaluate each new Focus.
"The pre-shipment drives are a key part of our quality process to ensure we deliver the highest quality to our customers," Deep said.
He said the Focus cars being built now will not be road tested, but will undergo a factory inspection before being shipped.
Some dealers have received the Focus, but many are not due to take initial delivery until next month, dealers said.
The 2012 Focus has been certified by the EPA at 40 mpg highway/28 mpg city. The ratings are for the version with the Super Fuel Economy package and a six-speed automatic transmission. The Focus SE with that package carries a sticker price of $19,655, including destination.
The Focus joins other new or redesigned small cars from Chevrolet, Hyundai and Honda that promise higher fuel economy than their predecessors.
Honda's redesigned Civic HF with a 1.8-liter gasoline engine, for example, is expected to get 41 mpg in highway driving. It is due out this spring.
All versions of the 2011 redesigned Hyundai Elantra are rated at 40 mpg highway and 29 mpg city.