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      06-09-2006, 05:20 PM   #1

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Blurred (Ford) Focus- How Ford Gets It Wrong-Again

European Model

Blurred Focus
How Ford mishandled its serviceable little car

In May, an otherwise dismal month for Detroit, Ford Motor Co. sold more than 20,000 Focus subcompacts, the fuel sipper's best showing in nine months. That's great news, right? Not really. Ford lost an estimated $4,000 to $5,000 on each Focus it sold.

What irony. Just when the subcompact market is heating up, Ford can't make money on a car acclaimed for its taut handling and decent 26/32-mpg fuel economy. The auto maker's Focus problem (pun intended) is an object lesson in how Ford continues to be hamstrung by high labor costs and tired product design. By choosing not to remake the Focus for the U.S. when it had the chance, Ford misread the road ahead. Now the auto maker is working overtime to bolster the Focus, albeit not until 2008, with a face-lift plus three new small cars.

When it hit the U.S. in 2000, the Focus was widely applauded. Car & Driver magazine named Ford's zippy subcompact to its influential "Ten Best" list four years running. But by 2003 the Focus had suffered more than 12 recalls. And when Ford redesigned it in 2004, the new Focus appeared only in Europe, where Dearborn felt it could fetch a decent price. Meanwhile, the U.S. version received just cosmetic upgrades.

Critics lavished praise on the European Focus, while noting snidely that Ford clearly thought Americans were too dumb to realize they were getting an old car. "From a viral marketing standpoint, that kills a brand and means you are forever selling on price," says marketing consultant Dennis Keene.

More @ BusinessWeek>http://

Too bad, Ford seems to slip on every banana peel in its path.
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