Special Coverage

Geneva
Auto Show

GENEVA – Enthusiasts eager to see Ford Motor Co.’s Special Vehicle Team badge on a sporty compact car can read positive signs into the auto maker’s announcement at the auto show here.

Ford says it will produce a performance version of the all-new Focus, which goes on sale in Europe late next year.

What this new vehicle will be called remains under consideration, but Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president-product development, says the model will “embody our new global performance vehicle DNA.”

Giving the vehicle one name in all markets is risky because Ford has strong performance brands in the U.S. (SVT) and Europe (ST and RS).

“We will talk about how we converge those brands going forward,” Kuzak tells journalists here after Ford’s press conference.

Asked if he sees enough similarities across those brand characteristics to sell the same exact vehicle in different regions, but under different nameplates, Kuzak is coy.

“Isn’t it great to be talking about these opportunities?” he says. “I am so happy, but we’ll give some more details later.”

Ford has said it will sell only 4-door and 5-door versions of the new Focus in the U.S., beginning next year.

It has been several years since Ford sold a 3-door SVT Focus in the U.S. The only current SVT offerings are the 320-hp Raptor off-road sport truck and 540-hp Shelby GT500 Mustang. The Focus performance model will be powered by a turbocharged, direct-injection gasoline EcoBoost 4-cyl. engine.

Confirmed powertrain options are numerous throughout the Focus range in Europe, including 148-hp and 178-hp versions of the 1.6L EcoBoost I-4. Also available will be naturally aspirated 1.6L I-4s and two Duratorq turbodiesels (displacing 1.6L and 2.0L).

With the current Focus, the European sales mix is split evenly between gasoline and diesel engines, Ingvar Sviggum, vice president-marketing, sales and service for Ford of Europe, tells Ward’s.

But he expects the gasoline engines to be more popular in the next-generation European Focus, because EcoBoost is so fun to drive.

“Diesel will still be a very important powertrain in many European markets,” Sviggum says. “But I think the EcoBoost, with this performance, will take over a bigger part.”

Having driven the new engine, he describes it as “very quiet, very smooth, a big improvement. And it’s good on carbon dioxide emissions.”

Also at the Geneva show, Ford unveils the Focus wagon, expected to be a hot-seller in Europe. In countries such as Germany and Italy, wagons make up more than 50% of Focus sales. The wagon is not planned for the U.S.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com