Ford (NYSE:F) continues to drive away from its ugliest chapter in company history, before and during the great recession, where the company was losing tens of billions of dollars. Since then Ford has constructed one of the greatest business turnarounds in American history, and it continues to put the pedal to the metal. One huge milestone for the company is the success its Focus is having internationally. If Ford is to continue changing perceptions and old stereotypes, its 2014 Focus needs to be a game-changer -- and I believe it already is.
A decade ago, Ford was known for nothing but terrible management decisions, ignorance and arrogance, and poorly designed, gas-guzzling behemoths. A small, fuel-efficient vehicle selling well for Ford was as common then as Congress' ability to come to a bipartisan agreement is today. Further, Ford could sell almost no vehicles globally.
Ford's Focus is overwriting that negative chapter entirely and is now the world's best-selling vehicle nameplate. One of the biggest wins for the Focus has been in China, where it's up 137% from last year, totaling more than 200,000 sales. Globally, registrations of the Focus are up 20% for the first half of 2013, compared with last year, up to nearly 600,000. That makes it the best-selling nameplate in the world, although Toyota disputes how R.L. Polk's registration data was gathered.
The Focus' victory in the global marketplace was unheard of a decade ago, but the story doesn't end there for the Dearborn automaker. It's Fiesta model is also the No. 4 best-selling nameplate globally, and the best-selling subcompact vehicle -- that's two models in the top five from Ford alone.
Still, the story gets better.
To take another step forward, Ford needs to secure a younger generation of buyers, the millennials, and steal market share from competitors. You guessed it; one version of the Focus is succeeding at both.
Enter the Focus ST
In its first year of sales, the Focus ST achieved the highest competitive conquest rate -- when consumers trade in a competitor's vehicle -- of all non-hybrid vehicles. Nearly two-thirds of buyers who drove home a Focus ST traded in a non-Ford vehicle, a huge win for the Ford brand as it competes in segments typically dominated by Japanese rivals.
Not only that, but the Focus ST is also showing signs of success in bringing younger and more affluent customers into Ford showrooms. Thirty-two percent of buyers are under 35, compared with 22% for the Focus overall.
"It's having the kind of halo effect for other vehicles we'd hoped for when we invested in the ST brand," said John Felice, vice president of U.S. marketing, sales, and service,vin a press release. "We continue to build through word of mouth and terrific reviews. As an affordable high-performance vehicle that can serve double duty as a daily driver, it has no equal."
The Focus ST boasts a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine that puts out nearly 200 horsepower and has an EPA-estimated highway mileage of 35 mpg. It also has a 2.0-liter EcoBoost that puts out just over 250 horsepower. As a bonus, buyers get a complimentary precision driving instruction at Miller Motorsports Park in Toole, Utah. That little package includes classroom instruction as well as karting and autocross driving lessons from professional instructors -- pretty interesting, in my book.
Ford has given American consumers a domestic automaker worth rooting for as it continues to change its past perceptions of poor quality and gas-guzzling SUVs. It's continued to roll out popular designs one after another. The Focus looks to be a game-changer for the company as it strives to bring in a younger audience and sell globally with the best of the best. Well done, Ford.
Fool contributor Daniel Miller 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.