If you had to guess which vehicle was Ford Motor Company's (NYSE:F) best-selling vehicle worldwide, what would your guess be? The F-Series dominates in the U.S., but the vehicles are too large to be sold in many international markets. Ford's Fusion or Escape would be solid guesses, since they sell well in both the U.S. and internationally, but would also be incorrect. Most consumers are surprised to find out that Ford's best-selling vehicle globally is the Focus -- and Ford just unleashed a pretty mean performance version of its hugely popular car.
Meet the Focus RS
For the first time in the United States, Ford will sell its Focus RS, which is branded under Ford's new performance-oriented lineup of vehicles. The all-new Focus RS boasts a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, which is projected to produce more than 315 horsepower. That's pretty impressive for such a small vehicle, especially when you consider that horsepower output essentially matches that of my 2010 Mustang GT, which has a V8 under the hood.
In a recent press release, Jim Farley, president of Ford of Europe, Middle East and Africa, said, "We are acutely aware of the benchmarks we have set ourselves with RS performance models through the years, and rest assured this new car raises the game to a new level."
Performance-oriented drivers will be happy to find the Focus' six-speed manual transmission has a shorter gear lever to enable faster and more accurate shifts. Furthermore, the transmission and clutch have been upgraded with stronger components, as well. The Focus' appearance has also been improved, with a more aggressive upper trapezoidal grille, in addition to a wide-looking stance.
Ford's Focus RS looks like a winner, and with 315 horsepower will certainly walk the walk, but what's Ford's goal by bringing the Focus RS to the U.S. market?
The company obviously wants to increase sales, but the Focus RS won't directly move the needle there -- as premium trim packages or exclusive models rarely do. Rather, Ford is targeting a younger millennial audience as well as enthusiast drivers, with the company's future business in mind.
Consider that millennials are expected to purchase 4.24 million cars and light trucks in 2015 -- out of an estimated total of 17 million units -- which is valued at $135 billion in total revenue, according to TrueCar.
It's important to attract younger buyers, because in 2014 more consumers were loyal to Ford than any other manufacturer or brand, for the fifth consecutive year, according to IHS Automotive. In addition to targeting a younger audience, which will help Ford to secure future sales and increase market share, the Focus RS will help attract performance and/or professional drivers, who typically influence mainstream buyers. Essentially, the Focus RS is but one piece of a larger strategy to help Ford dominate important consumer segments in the future.
Ford's strategy is working, too. Consider that in 2008, Ford ranked fourth with millennials in terms of brand consideration, but by 2013, Ford was the top choice.
Expect Ford to remain at the forefront of the younger demographic of consumers, as the Dearborn automaker is bringing more than 12 new performance vehicles to drivers across the world over the next five years. Ultimately, this is a great sign for Ford fans and investors alike, as the Focus gives us a glimpse of what's to come -- and it's good stuff.