California Autos Examiner

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Plastic Fantastic: ACATT Chats With Ford About Next Generation Fiesta and Focus U.S. Model Content

In the September issue of Motor Trend in the "Trend" section, the magazine stated that the "European and U.S. Focus models will share interior style, but that the Euro Focus will use better quality materials because Ford of Europe can charge much more money." Let me tell you, that one sentence had me very worried. I wanted to follow-up with Ford about this because, if true, it could really put a damper on some great products. I had a chance to speak with Said Deep, Ford North America and Global Product Communications Manager, about the Motor Trend piece. I want to clarify at the outset that because these products are a ways off, we did not discuss specifics, but rather spoke in generalities about consumer expectations and true “parts sharing.”

If you take away from the Motor Trend piece that next generation U.S. Focus will vary from European Focus in terms of “soft touch” materials or plastic quality then I think my conversation with Said pretty much dismissed that scenario. Speaking to different trim pieces, Said stated “If it’s not the same part number, then it's not really parts sharing.” That would mean that for a supplier to truly reap the benefits of volume production, they need to know that they can tap into global demand—be it here in the U.S., Asia or Europe. Tack on a few hundred thousand extra dash panels and suddenly the price per unit drops for all units sold.

Now that we’ve laid to rest the rumor that the U.S. Fiesta and Focus will vary in terms of interior trim quality, what about all the fancy gadgets? In the past, European small cars have been chock-full of wondrous options that are only offered on premium vehicles here in the U.S. The argument went that U.S. customers simply would not pay the extra money for such features, so why offer them? This attitude is changing rapidly. People downsizing from a loaded SUVs are expecting to find all the great features, such as navigation, backup camera, leather, etc, they had in their old vehicles in their new rides. Ford is seeing a lot of showroom interest in smaller vehicles laden with content. This is important because it gives Ford a good feeling about offering even more premium content, which in turn will boost the average transaction price upwards which will increase dealership and manufacturer profits. If you need any confirmation of how hungry Americans are for well-equipped small cars, just hop on over to Mini’s site and equip a Cooper with all the options. You can easily add 50% to the cost of the vehicle by throwing on all sorts of premium features. How’s that working out for Mini? Just head on down to your local dealer and buy a new Cooper, chances are you’ll be told to take a number—they’re sold out.

Of course, Ford will tailor each car to the local market in which it is being sold. However, it seems that Ford does “get it” and won’t be stripping out the Euro-interiors and installing “Tempo chic” hard and shiny plastic interiors with limited options availability. Will every option that is offered in Europe be offered in sister vehicles offered here? There will be exceptions, of that I’m sure, but Said did offer up that any options offered in Europe will be in Ford’s bag of tricks and could easily be offered on our cars should Ford sense demand for them.

2009 Ford Fiesta (Europe) shown above.

Check out other interior news: Chevrolet Cruze and Chrysler's vastly improved Jeep Compass and Patriot interiors.
Photo source: Ford

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