DETROIT — If you want to know how Ford Motor Co. feels about the car segment in North America, look no further than the Focus.
In the span of 15 months, the automaker went from planning to build the next-generation Focus in a new $1.6 billion plant in Mexico to canceling those plans and wedging production in an already-established plant in Hermosillo, Mexico, to shipping the compact car off the continent entirely by consolidating production in China as part of a cost-cutting effort announced last week.
The move is a sharp fall for the small, fuel-efficient sedan/hatchback that was once a major part of Ford's U.S. product plans. Slumping sales that show no sign of picking back up have turned the car into an imported afterthought.
Starting next year, Ford will go about a year without building a single Focus for North America — and the market may not even notice. Production for North America will end in Michigan in mid-2018 and won't begin in China until mid- to late 2019, the automaker said.
"We'd prefer not to have that large of a gap, admittedly," Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of global operations, told Automotive News. "We think we'll be able to bridge that gap with a combination of stockpiling, and the EcoSport [subcompact crossover] coming in, which will help us have another product in that price band."