Why the New 2015 Ford Focus Is Important

Ford's overhauled compact is arriving in the nick of time.

Feb 24, 2014 at 7:01PM


The refreshed 2015 Ford Focus was unveiled in Spain on Sunday. It will go on sale in the U.S. in the second half of 2014, Ford said. Photo credit: Ford.

Ford (NYSE:F) revealed its freshly overhauled 2015 Focus in Barcelona on Sunday. The Blue Oval's hot-selling compact has a new face, an improved interior, and a new engine that could become a favorite with green-minded Americans.

As you can see in the photo above, the most noticeable change to the Focus is its new grille, which follows the Aston Martin-ish design introduced on Ford's midsize Fusion.

But there's a lot more going on with the new Focus.

The difference between "new" and "all-new"
To be clear, this isn't an "all-new" Focus. Automakers use "all-new" to designate a completely new version of a model, one that has been redesigned from the ground up. There won't be an "all-new" Focus for a few more years yet.

So what do we call this new-but-not-all-new Focus? In the jargon of the auto business, the 2015 Focus is "refreshed." Automakers generally plan to refresh a model when it's roughly halfway to two-thirds of the way through its planned life cycle. Refreshing an existing model costs much less than designing and tooling up to build an all-new one, but it gives the automaker a chance to bring improvements to customers. 


The Fusion-esque grille and hood are the most immediately noticeable changes to the 2015 Focus. It's a well-integrated look. Photo credit: Ford.

It also gives customers a reason to give the model another look. Often, sales of a model start to sag after a few years, as competitors release newer alternatives. That has been happening to the Focus here in the U.S.: Ford's compact was a big seller when it first came out, but a refreshed Civic from Honda (NYSE:HMC) and an all-new Toyota (NYSE:TM) Camry have recently stolen some of the Focus' thunder.

Long story short, the 2015 Ford Focus isn't all-new from the ground up. But it has received a host of changes and improvements to go with its striking new face.

No hybrid version (yet), but a high-tech three-cylinder engine that could be a hit
First on that list is a step forward in Ford's ongoing green push -- but it's not the plug-in hybrid model that had been widely rumored. Instead, Ford says 2015 Focus buyers will now have the option of the company's award-winning 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine. Right now, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder is the only choice for U.S. Focus buyers; that engine will continue to be standard in the 2015 Focus.

The 1.0 liter has become a favorite in some overseas markets, and it has won several industry awards. It's a very well-regarded engine. But by American standards, it's tiny -- Ford often brags that the engine block can fit in an airplane's overhead compartment. 

It's a three-cylinder with Ford's special EcoBoost sauce, which includes a turbocharger and direct injection and variable valve timing, technologies that work together to squeeze as much power as possible out of every drop of gasoline at any given engine speed. 

That technology is pretty effective: In the Fiesta, the tiny engine is rated at 123 horsepower, slightly higher than the 120 horses generated by Ford's workhorse 1.6 liter. Ford didn't release ratings for the 1.0 Focus, but they should be similar -- and the 1.0-equipped Focus should easily beat the 2.0 version's EPA-estimated 40 miles per gallon in highway driving. 

Some styling tweaks, and some new high-tech safety features
The 2015 Focus also gets some visual changes in addition to the restyled grille and hood. Ford says that it has added "signature lighting" for the car's headlamps and tail lamps (translation: fashionable LED accents), along with new rear lamp clusters and a restyled trunk lid.


The changes to the rear of the Focus are more subtle. Photo credit: Ford.

The Focus' interior has also had an overhaul. Ford hadn't yet released photos of the new interior at press time, but we know that it has a revised center console and some new seat trims. There are also revisions to the car's suspension to improve handling and comfort.

Ford is also making more of its high-tech driver assist features available on the Focus, with an optional package that includes a rearview camera and the automaker's lane-keeping and blind-spot warning systems.

The upshot: A timely overhaul for Ford's faithful compact
Since its introduction, the current Focus has been one of the world's best-selling cars. It's a top seller in Europe and has been a big hit in China. But in recent months, its sales here have faded, as buyers have looked toward fresher options from Ford's Japanese rivals. 

Ford's total U.S. sales have been solid; the Focus' recent decline hasn't been a big issue here. But the concern has been that Focus sales overseas would start to fade as well. That would be a problem.

The overhauled 2015 Focus should help when it goes on sale later this year. The new Focus nicely incorporates some of the styling magic that helped make the Fusion sedan a big hit. The new 1.0 EcoBoost engine will appeal to green-minded buyers and should give Ford some impressive fuel-economy figures to advertise.

Will it be enough to regain lost sales ground? It's hard to say. The Japanese automakers are operating with a big currency advantage that gives them more room to cut prices or offer incentives, moves that Ford can't match without giving up significant profits. 

But the current Focus remains a solid contender in the tough compact segment, and the refreshed 2015 model looks to be a meaningful improvement. Ford did its part; now we'll see how the market responds.

Why it's time to say goodbye to "Made in China"
For the first time since the early days of this country, we're in a position to dominate the global manufacturing landscape thanks to a single, revolutionary technology: 3-D printing. Although this sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, the success of 3-D printing is already a foregone conclusion to many manufacturers around the world. The trick now is to identify the companies -- and thereby the stocks -- that will prevail in the battle for market share. To see the three companies that are currently positioned to do so, simply download our invaluable free report on the topic by clicking here now.

John Rosevear owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends Ford. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.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.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information