Ford Motor Co. is betting the family jewels (and its Blue Oval trademark) on the success of a handful of new products, none so notable as the upcoming '08 Ford Focus, which will have to hold down the proverbial small-car fort until the arrival of the much-anticipated global B-car sometime within the next few years.
Available in coupe and sedan forms only (wagon and three-door versions were dropped), the new Focus improves in most areas, including a 2.0L inline 4-cyl. engine, producing 140 hp, and new suspension, tuning and chassis refinements. In today's climate of $3-plus for a gallon of gasoline, the new Focus is sure to garner plenty of attention from small-car shoppers. While an all around better car than its predecessor, Ford would be wise to rethink offering the Focus in only two body styles, as it risks alienating a small, yet devout group of Focus enthusiasts who prefer the sporty and highly tunable three-door variant.
While the Focus is undoubtedly an important product for Ford, the most intriguing upcoming model may very well be the Flex cross/utility vehicle. Due to launch in 2008 as a '09 model, the funky-looking seven-passenger Flex may be just what Ford needs to turn the corner towards prosperity. Based of the wildly popular Fairlane concept shown at the 2005 Detroit auto show, the Flex replaces Ford's defunct minivan lineup and looks to make waves in the increasingly popular CUV segment. Although Flex's unorthodox styling may not be for everybody, it's sure to put some buzz back into the Blue Oval and attract new buyers to the marque.
In Showrooms: October
Price: $14,695 - $16,995
Production: 181,000 in 2008
Pro's: More refined suspension system and strong interior coupled with the new Sync system should lure some buyers in.
Con's: Under-whelming and less than credible design effort that does not underscore the importance Ford executives say the auto maker is placing in the small-car market.