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Focus ST to replace XR5

FaST Focus: EcoBoosted 2.0-litre Focus will not go by the XR name in Oz.

Another XR nameplate goes AWOL as Ford confirms Focus 'ST' and looks to wagon

4 Aug 2011

FORD AUSTRALIA will follow global naming convention for its next Focus performance variant, spelling the end of the Blue Oval's long-lived XR nameplate for all models but the Falcon-based XR6.

The piping-hot new Focus ST, as it will be known here, will hit local Ford Ford showrooms some time in 2012 after its global production debut at next month's Frankfurt motor show.

Ford's all-new Focus roll-out won't end there, however, with this week's mainstream hatch and sedan variants and next year's ST hatch to be joined by the MkIII Focus wagon for the first time in Australia – if Ford ascertains that there is enough customer demand.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the new LW-series Focus in Melbourne this week, Ford Australia vice-president of sales, marketing and service, Beth Donovan, confirmed that Australia will adopt the international naming policy for all its models, beginning with the mainstream Focus Ambiente, Trend, Sport and Titanium.

The Focus ST (for Sports Technologies) will likely use a 184kW/360Nm version of the 2.0-litre turbocharged EcoBoost petrol four to drive its front wheels, burying the long-lived 169kW/320Nm 2.5-litre five-cylinder Volvo-supplied unit powering the existing Focus XR5.

Ford Australia has secured a number of runout LV-series XR5 Turbos from the Saarlouis plant in Germany, however, so the previous-shape Focus flagship car will continue to be available alongside the new Focus range for a number of months until stocks are exhausted.

Ford says the new Focus ST, which emerged in concept form at last year's Paris motor show, is a no-brainer for Australia, but exact timing and specifications are still yet to be finalised.

“It is something that we would always do given the opportunity,” she said.

27 center imageLeft: Focus ST concept. Below: Disguised Focus ST prototype undergoing testing. “With the help of our dealers the old XR5 Turbo helped establish street cred for the Focus brand. It’s done well for us in the market and we still have stocks at dealerships because before the end of production (in Germany) we bought a bunch.

“But we’re still defining what we need from ST. Obviously there is a performance version of the new Focus planned in the form of ST, and we don’t have any reason to believe that it won’t be successful in Australia, but let’s get the four-door and five-door versions launched first.

“Adopting the ST brand is part of One Ford, similar to what you’ve seen with the new Focus no longer having CL, LX, Zetec (variants). Going Ambiente, Trend, Sport, Titanium is the global nomenclature.” The first and last time a Focus ST was sold in Australia was in the LR (C170) series.

Launched with a Cosworth-developed 127kW/196Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, the ST170 featured revised steering and suspension components as well as a Getrag six-speed manual gearbox. Sales were not strong, prompting Ford Australia to switch to the XR nomenclature for its LS replacement in 2006.

Ford Australia, which remains without the Falcon's once-sacred XR8 nameplate, says it does not expect the ST nomenclature to disenfranchise XR5 buyers.

“In this global world that is digitally connected, people go on line and see what we’re doing internationally,” she said.

“(Focus) RS is good testimony to that. We didn’t do any above-the-line advertising on that - it was all viral and word of mouth… and all those vehicles sold very quickly and it was very positive for the brand. People knew what an RS was. So we thought that was a good validation of what people thought of ST.” Ford’s local sales and marketing chief said that all 10 separate model derivatives based on the new MkIII Focus platform - including the wagon that first appeared at the Geneva motor show in March – will be considered for Australian release.

This is because of the One Ford regime that, among other things, has streamlined the local homologation process for all key global products. Previously Ford developed a range of similar sized separate models according to which region they were designed to be sold in.

Nevertheless, Ms Donovan said it was essential for Ford to establish the volume-selling hatch and sedan variants of the mainstream Focus range before it introduced the new Focus wagon in Australia.

“Again, let’s get the four and the five-door launched, and then let’s see what the customers want. If they say they want more space and more versatility then we will consider the wagon,” she said.

“It’s one of the great things about One Ford – the Focus wagon is a product that is available globally. If we find there is demand then we have the opportunity to pursue that and implement it into our range flawlessly.

“Having another Focus bodystyle available is a real benefit for us after all, but it’s important to establish Focus first. We’re planning to be successful and so that will lead to other options like the wagon.

“We have been very successful with Mondeo wagon, and if we can get more supply of the diesel in particular we would.” If sold here, the Focus wagon would join a small number of compact wagons available, including Hyundai’s i30cw, Volkswagen’s Golf and Peugeot’s 308. After adding an Australian-designed hatch body style to its Adelaide-built Cruze sedan range later this year, Holden is also expected to release a Cruze wagon.

However, despite the fact Ford will next year replace its aged Escape with a new global compact SUV based on the Vertrek concept – which is also based on the Focus platform and should also debut at Frankfurt next month – Ford says the Focus wagon’s case would be bolstered here if it was seen by consumers as an SUV substitute.

“The key is, where are those Focus wagon customers going to come from? Are they going to come out of compact SUVs? That’s the feedback we are looking for. If people are saying that then we will get it.” Ford has not offered a C-segment wagon in Australia since the 1985 Mazda BF 323-derived (and KC ‘Bubble-back’ Laser-based) GC Meteor wagon that was introduced in May 1986 and discontinued as the KEII Laser wagon in December 1994.

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