Thursday, June 01, 2006

Euro Focus ST Spied In Mexico. Is It On The Way?

Leftlane News has two photos taken by an intrepid poster at the Mopar Extreme forums. The one at right (click to enlarge) clearly shows the car to be a Focus ST. Sure the badging is all covered with duct tape, but the wheels, body kit, and dual exhaust eliminate any doubt that the car pictured is one of the hot Euro-Foci. Compare the spy shot to the publicity photo below.

Now, As Leftlane points out, this doesn't necessarily mean anything. The automakers do sometimes test non-US market cars in North America. I remember one afternoon a few years ago when one of my day-job colleagues based in Arizona IM'd me with, "I just saw a Nissan Primera at lunch. Are we getting that?"

As everyone is now aware, the answer to that question was, "No." And so it may be the case with the European Focus.

But there is reason to harbor a flicker of hope. Yesterday, the Oval sent out a press release informing the world that the Focus is in the midst of a sales boom (my emphasis):

Focus sales have increased steadily in 2006, from 13,638 units in February, to 16,171 in March to 17,917 in April. As a result, the company has improved its inventory of Focus vehicles to only 60 days in stock. The industry norm is 80-90 days in stock.

"May could be the best sales month for the Focus since last summer's Ford Family Plan incentives," says George Pipas, manager, Sales Analysis. "The sale of small cars across the entire industry has been gaining momentum."

While fuel prices may be the main reason for the increase, small cars are also becoming trendy, says Robert Parker, Ford Marketing manager.

Very intriguing. Think about it: if people are buying up the lame US-market Focus at a brisk clip right now, consider the kinds of numbers they'd be pulling if the far more interesting Euro-style Focus was in stores this side of the Atlantic.

It's the "trendy" comment that makes me really think there's reason to be cautiously enthused about this sighting. If Ford plans to capitalize on American consumers' newfound desire for stylish, small, and economical automobiles, releasing the European Focus here is a no-brainer. Where the current model is merely serviceable, the Euro model is cool.

Cool sells. Ford should know.