This topic keeps worming its way into your author’s brain, and it remains a regular point of discussion in the TTAC Slack chat room. How could it not? Ford announced the demise of its non-Mustang passenger car lineup earlier this year while simultaneously declaring that no customer would be left behind.
No one’s being cut loose from the Ford family, CEO Jim Hackett remarked. Ford’s just reinventing the car. Okay…
Now that Dearborn’s plan to import the lightly crossoverized Focus Active from China has bit the dust, entry-level customers (meaning those without much dough, or those in the mood for downsizing and good fuel economy) can choose from the base, front-drive, three-cylinder EcoSport and not much else. What a choice. Maybe a low-end Escape, if those exist? We’re already well into the $20k range now, before tax, admin, and freight.
As Ford figures out how to reinvent the car, assuming it truly wants to continue courting entry-level buyers, there’ll be a dwindling number of certified pre-owned Fiestas, Focuses, and Fusions available for some years to come. Of course, the number of buyers looking for these models is dwindling, too, which is why Ford made its decision in the first place.
Maybe it will all work out — youngsters with their first professional job can hop into a low-mileage off-lease special, and empty nesters who didn’t set much aside for retirement can do the same. Then, when Group A has moved up the corporate ladder and Group B has, um, relinquished its driving privileges, there’ll be at least some customers willing to consider whatever Ford comes up with to flesh out the bottom of its lineup.
Or maybe Group A is, by now, in the mood for something more family-friendly? Hmm…
It’s worth noting that the subcompact Ford Fiesta, scheduled for execution early next year, is up 2.5 percent in terms of year-to-date sales. It’s not much volume — 33,225 units, or about a third of the rapidly falling (and already discontinued) Focus’s volume — but noteworthy for being the only Ford passenger car without a minus sign next to its YTD figure. Combined, Fiesta, Focus, and Fusion sales amounted to 24,202 units last month —11.5 percent of Ford branded vehicles (of which a full half were pickup trucks and vans).
After axing the North American Focus Active, Ford claimed it wasn’t a big loss, as it didn’t plan to sell more than 50,000 of them a year. Clearly, the automaker feels it’ll be just fine without a low-end vehicle. With more utilities on the way and the F-Series pushing its sales and margins into the mesosphere, it has the privilege of not having to worry about low-margin compacts, as well as their buyers. Fine.
So, the question today is this: should Ford just come clean and say it’s willing to abandon low-end buyers? Does it bother you that it continues to dance around the topic, alluding to vehicles that haven’t yet materialized, and might never appear?
[Image: Ford Motor Company]