Why Ford Focus Sales Are Falling

Here's how Ford will turn the Focus' sales decline around.

Feb 9, 2014 at 2:30PM


Is Ford's Focus falling behind newer rivals? Or is just due for a refresh? Photo credit: Ford Motor Co.

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.

John Rosevear owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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