Americans never completely warmed up to the Focus, Ford’s alternatingly great and terrible compact. That’s why we lost it four years ago. In Europe, however, the Focus has enjoyed a more respected reputation. Or at least I thought it did, because the Focus’ days may be numbered there too, according to reports that surfaced Wednesday.
Here’s what’s happening: Ford has selected its Valencia plant to spearhead electric vehicle production in Europe. In the very same press release, it also announced plans to build a new facility in Cologne, where Ford Europe is already headquartered, beginning next year.
The thing is Ford already has a plant in Germany, in Saarlouis, that handles all of Focus production for Europe. And while Ford intends to “continue to build the Focus in Saarlouis through 2025,” according to the automaker’s European public relations director, Michael Baumann, it’s the plant’s future after that point that is uncertain. From Automotive News:
Ford Motor Co. has no plans to replace Focus production at its vehicle assembly plant in Saarlouis, Germany, in 2025. Instead, the U.S. company will seek “alternative opportunities” for the factory, including selling it to another automaker, Ford of Europe Chairman Stuart Rowley said.
Rowley, however, stopped short of saying the facility would close.
“We are seeking other alternative opportunities for vehicle production at Saarlouis, including other manufacturers,” Rowley said in a conference call with journalists on Wednesday. “We do not have in our planning cycle an additional model that goes into Saarlouis.”
So Saarlouis may not close, but it also may be sold to another manufacturer. And if Saarlouis remains with Ford after all this, the company doesn’t yet know what other model may join or replace the Focus there in a few years’ time.
In any case, Focus production will either have to be relocated or end in Europe after 2025. This is why you may be seeing a range of reports today that the Focus is effectively dead, though that claim seems a bit premature when viewed in context.
Disclaimers aside, that’s not to say the Focus couldn’t very well disappear. Crossovers are replacing family sedans and wagons even in Europe. Relatively smaller passenger cars are becoming increasingly harder to sell there, thanks to a combination of already-scant margins and tightening EU emissions regulations. For proof, look no further than what Ford Europe’s own (former) top brass related to Automotive News three years ago:
“Ironically the smaller vehicles are toughest to reduce CO2 in,” Ford of Europe Chairman Steve Armstrong told Automotive News Europe at the recent unveiling of the Kuga SUV. “The smaller the vehicle, the tighter the margin, the harder it is to meet emissions targets.” PSA’s head of Europe, Maxime Picat, agreed. “The ability of any carmaker to make a profit [from minicars] is under pressure because of all of the technology we have to add in our vehicles for safety and for emissions.”
Bear in mind, that was expressed before a global supply chain calamity and pandemic, so it’s hard to imagine the situation’s gotten any more encouraging for the Focus and its ilk since. Rather, Ford will redirect its efforts to the same place all of its peers have: EVs.
It’s worth pointing out that the Focus is also produced in China and Taiwan via collaborations Ford has with manufacturers in those countries. It’s unclear if the compact’s future is brighter there, but then the Mondeo still exists in China after all, so it could very well work out that the Focus leaves the West for good but lives on on the other side of the world. Speaking as a Fiesta ST owner, get ’em while you can.