Ford's (NYSE: F ) Focus has been one of the stars of the Blue Oval's global revival. The sharp compact has received plenty of critical praise -- and plenty of happy new owners, too.
In fact, the Focus has become a sales leader around the world. It's one of the world's best-selling cars -- but in the U.S., Focus sales have fallen sharply.
What's the deal?
As Fool contributor John Rosevear explains in this video, there are probably a few different factors holding the Focus back. But as John notes, Ford may be on the verge of giving its global best-seller a big boost.
A transcript of the video follows.
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Hey, Fools, it's John Rosevear. So here are some stark numbers to consider. Toyota (NYSE: TM ) sold almost 23,000 Corollas in the U.S. in January. Honda (NYSE: HMC ) sold almost 22,000 Civics. But Ford sold just 12,000 Focuses. We've talked a lot about how the Focus is a very competitive model, maybe the best American compact car ever, one of the world's best-selling cars, a huge seller in places like China and the U.K, but here in the U.S. it has really struggled.
Focus sales were down almost 26% in January. For the year last year, Focus sales were down 4.6%, but a lot of that drop came from big declines in the latter part of the year; sales were down 31% in December. Well, part of the deal is that Ford's other cars have come a long way. The Fiesta just got refreshed last year and has been selling pretty well, and of course the current Fusion, one size up from the Focus, is a very appealing package.
And part of it is that shifting exchange rates have given the Japanese companies some room to cut prices, which is a big advantage with compact cars. But another part of this is just something that happens in the car business. We still think of the Focus as a shining example of the new Ford, the overhauled Ford that has great profits and much-improved quality, but the truth is at this point the Focus is one of Ford's older models. Meanwhile, the Corolla was all new last fall, and the Civic got a major refresh for the 2013 model year that made it much more competitive. An all-new Focus is still a few years away, but it's time for a refreshed version of the Focus, with maybe an updated grille and some improvements in the interior and some new features.
And sure enough, the automotive rumor mill says that such a Focus is coming soon. It's expected that Ford will show off the 2015 Focus at the Geneva Auto Show in Switzerland in March. That's a major auto show for the European market, where the Focus is a big seller. We're hearing that the refreshed Focus will get a big Aston Martin-type grille like the Fusion, along with some other small styling tweaks to the front and rear end caps.
If you've been in a current Focus, you know that on the center stack -- that's the part of the dash that's between the front seats -- on the Focus' center stack there are a whole bunch of buttons in a layout that looks sort of like a giant cell-phone keypad. That's going away, we hear; it'll be replaced by more conventional climate controls, a trend we've seen in other recent Ford products.
We also hear that there may be a plug-in hybrid version of the Focus coming, using a system similar to what's in the plug-in version of the C-Max, which would give it around 20 miles of electric-only range when it's charged up.
We'll have all the details for you as soon as Ford releases them. Thanks for watching, and Fool on.