For the Focus, it was magical years that seemed to have an endless tenure. But up until a few years ago, sales suddenly began to drop. Charlen Raymond takes a look at why this Ford got axed in the local market.
It’s a tough old world for hatchbacks and sedans. Not because of reasons requiring rocket science to be explained, but because of something, or some things, a lot more apparent: crossovers and SUVs.
With the advent of these body types becoming more mainstream, consumers are opting for these vehicles over the aforementioned. Not only because they look like vehicles that can hop the curb at your favourite shopping centre, but because of the perceived practicality that comes with it.
The end result of this is that manufacturers are finding themselves in a bit of bother, because overall sales are affected by this. If you do not have a bakkie or crossover/SUV in your line-up, you can expect sales to dwindle. Just ask Ford, because they recently had to cut a pillar of strength from their local line-up.
Focus off its perch
Who remembers the Ford Escort? Many of us do, and up until the early 2000s, it was a first-choice option in Ford’s stable. It wasn’t long before the Escort name got dropped in favour of Focus, and sales continued to rise. With a new name came a renewed energy and Ford did its part to keep consumers happy.
The Focus range was available in both hatchback and sedan guises, and it was a viable alternative to the ever-popular Volkswagen Golf and Toyota Corolla.
For the Focus, it was magical years that seemed to have an endless tenure. But up until a few years ago, Focus sales suddenly began to drop. Not just locally, but globally too!
Crossovers and SUVs from rival automakers gave consumers greater choice. Sedans and hatchbacks, suddenly, were on the back foot and left scratching their heads on how to survive.
Ford, too, expanded its portfolio with the likes of the EcoSport and Everest. But it was the former that, quite frankly, took sales away from the Focus.
Funny enough, it wasn’t all that strange, because buying patterns have indicated that it will happen. Ford read the market and ensured that they are in the midst of things as the market evolves and changes.
Ford Focus Active coming?
In keeping up with the latest trends and buying patterns, Ford kept its finger on the pulse as to how the market will evolve. As such, they produced an all-new Focus Active model.
A crossover, if you will. This model has a higher ground clearance than the standard Focus, but is equipped with all the latest technologies one would expect from a brand like Ford.
Sadly, the new Focus Active, nor the new Focus, will not be coming to South Africa. We reached out to Ford SA and got the following response:
The automaker says: "While we regularly evaluate our future product plans based on customer preferences and trends, we also target higher revenue vehicles and customer segments, for an overall healthier and more profitable business that benefits both Ford and the Dealer Network.
"It is with this in mind that we can confirm that the all-new Focus and Focus ST range will not be available to South African customers. We believe that we offer a strong vehicle range in the local market, a range that will be sustainable going forward. We thank our customers for their ongoing loyalty and support."
Wheels24's Janine Van der Post says: "At the international launch of the Focus in France last year, little alarm bells had gone off in my head when Ford SA's then-representative said the Focus ST was not going to make its way to SA. I was gutted, the new Focus was top notch. How could it not when South Africans had always loved this car. Then we heard we would not get the Active model, and eventually, the car in its entity. Sad day indeed.
"However, Ford thrives in its Ranger bakkie sales. Heck, we even build the Raptor here too for the world market. South Africans love bakkies and compact SUVs and October's figure of 1265 EcoSport models is enough evidence of that. It really would have been pointless to bring the Focus here if it was only going to sell in minuscule numbers.
"And with the Volkswagen Golf 8 coming next year, it wouldn't have even had a chance.
"Ford SA has enough good models available locally, and they know what their customers want. The Focus, sadly, just no longer applies.
Here’s what we think
The Ford Focus has a long history in South Africa, starting with the Escort in the 1960s. And it’s a real shame that such a strong name had to be cut because buying patterns negated it.
The Focus should have continued in South Africa, even if it was under a different body type.i.e. the Focus Active. But Ford SA faces a tougher challenge than to just bring the Active model to our shores.
Image: Janine Van der Post / Wheels24
In the UK, the Focus Active currently retails from £22 145 (approx. R423 646 when you convert). This price excludes all the taxes the vehicle will be exposed to should it come to SA.
In all, the base Focus Active could carry a local price tag of well-over R500 000. Immediately that poses a new wave of challenges, as this model would come up against rivals such as the Mazda CX-3 (from R311 500), Hyundai Creta (from R359 900), and Citroën C5 Aircross (from R469 900). And on price, Ford South Africa would have their backs against the wall.
One can only hope that the Focus name will return to South Africa. One day.