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Ford denies undue Fiesta focus

A year to go: Ford's next generation Focus is expected to arrive in the third quarter of 2011.

Popular Fiesta will not take priority over flagging Focus, says Ford

31 Aug 2010

FORD has hit back at suggestions that it is allowing Focus sales to falter while it concentrates on the high-flying Fiesta light car.

Instead, the company is blaming industrial unrest and subsequent supply shortages at Ford’s Pretoria plant in South Africa that provides the volume-selling LV Focus CL, LX and Zetec hatch and sedan models.

The ageing small car has suffered a 15 per cent sales dip in the first seven months of 2010, in a segment that has risen 17.5 per cent over the same period.

In stark contrast, Fiesta sales have outstripped its booming light-car segment, to the tune of 28.6 per cent against the class average of 18.7 per cent from January to July.

Furthermore, driven by much better model availability, improved value and perhaps even lower pricing, Ford is predicting that the Fiesta’s market share will soar from its current level of a little more than eight per cent to match its light-car rivals, the Hyundai Getz and Toyota Yaris, about 15 per cent.

27 center imageFrom top: Ford's 2011 Focus, current Focus and Ford Fiesta Econetic.

Speaking to GoAuto at last week’s launch of the facelifted Fiesta hatch and new sedan version (both of which are now made in Thailand rather than Germany), Ford Australia marketing manager David Katic denied that the company was switching tack away from the Focus in favour of Fiesta.

“Both are really, really important to us, absolutely, because there are customers who want a B-car and there are customers who need a C-car,” Mr Katic said.

“Fiesta is a fantastic success story (for us). It’s not a small B-car – Fiesta’s got some good size about it … the Fiesta is very close in overall size and package to a Corolla – so it is a very compelling proposition.

“But there are customers out there who want a C-car, and that will be the role of Focus going forward.”

Mr Katic said that promotional pricing – such as $23,990 driveaway for Focus LX auto – would continue due to the hyper-competitive nature of the small-car segment.

“To keep Focus relevant, it really needs to be consumer-driven. We are going to do some product actions towards the end of the year, with features that we are adding to the CL like the five-star safety, and Bluetooth and voice control on LX and Zetec.

“Adding extra features and content makes it an even better consumer proposition, and that really is our strategy with Focus.

“The car has been extremely competitive in the segment and we have had an outstanding response to that (promotion).

“But our biggest issue is to ensure continuity of supply. On Focus we have had some pretty significant issues there. We know there are some labour issues out of South Africa, and we still have to work through some of those.

“(But) we are now shipping Fiesta from Thailand, so we are very confident that we will always have good supply moving forward.”

Ford believes there is room for both the Fiesta and Focus because many consumers want a more compact and lighter vehicle to drive than what many small-car options offer – including the Focus.

“We think that the sedan mix will be 20 per cent. I am particularly excited about the Fiesta sedan opportunity.

“The B- and C-class markets are growing, and we don’t have a little runabout sedan (in the light segment). The Focus sedan is a really good bigger package (but) when you look at the Fiesta sedan, it has a massive boot.

“When we first looked at positioning the Fiesta sedan in the Australian market, we thought it was going to be an older buyer demographic, but that is not the case. The Fiesta hatch and Fiesta sedan buyer are actually the same – but different: the sedan buyer is looking for package – legroom, boot room, and all that stuff. It’s a no-compromise package for a B-class sedan. And that really surprised us. We thought the Fiesta sedan buyer would be a lot older.

“But that doesn’t mean the Focus sedan will suffer. There are some consumers who want something a little bit bigger, with a bit more room and refinement, and that’s what the Focus provides – and at a value proposition.

“So I don’t think it will get overshadowed by Fiesta. Focus will continue to get the share that we want it to.”

As GoAuto has reported, the next-generation Focus will initially be sourced out of Germany when it is released early in the third-quarter next year.

But the Ford/Mazda AutoAlliance (Thailand) facility that already supplies the WT Fiesta, as well as the upcoming Ford T6 Ranger one-tonne truck, will eventually come on stream with Focus III production sometime during 2012.

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