Ford wipes troubles away with Focus unveilingBy Tessa R. Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The gloom of frustration and disappointment over the recent plant closure could have very well been wiped away when Ford Philippines set off a virtual “firework” of eight planned launches in 2012.
The first big bang turns out to be the reveal of the all-new Focus, and the promise of more bang for the buck, as the “re-focused” Focus is now feature-packed with park assist, collision-mitigation technology, voice-activated systems, blind spot information, keyless entry, power start and other creature comforts found only in European luxury cars twice the price.
“(The new Focus) is pretty competitive. I can’t think of any other vehicle with the same class level at that price. This is first in its class. How will this do in the market? I think it’s going to fly, with the price structure they have. No doubt,” quipped Jonel Borromeo of the Ford Cebu dealership.
Willy Tee Ten, who also maintains several Ford dealerships in the country, agreed.
Inquirer Motoring chanced upon Tee Ten and Borromeo, who were seated inside the top-of-the-line 2.0-liter Focus sedan during the July 6 launch at the Rockwell Tent in Makati. The two were visibly delighted that features once exclusive to luxury cars could now be found in a Ford Focus. Now why spend some P3.5 million for a luxury car when you can part with just a tad below P1.2 million and virtually get the same deal, one of them asked rhetorically.
Abruptly, it seemed that the Ford plant closure in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, was just a distant memory. Asked about how the plant shutdown could affect their dealerships, the two answered that it could even have been a blessing in disguise.
“I think the plant had been losing money for several years, because it had been producing the old Focus, Escape and Mazda3. The big volumes don’t come from this plant anymore, but from Thailand. This one was already bleeding and they were subsidizing it. Better to stop the bleeding, and concentrate on (introducing new products). Look at Hyundai. It doesn’t have local production here, yet it is doing so well,” Borromeo said.
Tee Ten added: “Economies of scale is the bottom line. How can a 36,000 per year production capacity (by the Sta. Rosa plant) compete with 300,000 per year? And most of the parts (used in the plant) were coming from Thailand. The cost of importation is something. The cost of electricity here is more expensive. The labor cost is the same, but there are more labor disputes in the Philippines.”
Tee Ten further explained that Thailand offered “great foreign investor incentives and policies. Ford put up two plants and saw that incentives were better there.”
With many existing plants in Thailand, the supply base became more efficient and effective. Tee Ten added that the volume in the Philippines has continued to be comparatively small, as he cited the sales performance of Thailand, which is almost a million versus 165,000 in the Philippines.
In a separate interview, Philippine Automotive Federation Inc. secretary general Frank Nacua told Inquirer Motoring that these 165,000 units had been the combined report of all members of the auto industry associations (Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers Philippines Inc. [Campi], Truck Manufacturers Association [TMA], Alliance of Vehicle Importers and Distributors [AVID]) in their 2011 sales performances.
A further breakdown of this figure shows that 80,000 units were assembled/produced by the auto plants in the Philippines, while 85,000 were completely built up units imported by Campi, TMA and Avid members. Avid president Fe Perez-Agudo told Inquirer Motoring last week that alliance members had imported an average of 30,000 units a year. This leaves 55,000 units being imported by car assemblers and other vehicle importers that are not AVID members.
The Focus will go on sale in the Philippines in September and will be produced at Ford’s new $450-million, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Rayong, Thailand, which will supply the entire Asean region as well as other export markets.
The all-new Focus has been expanded to include the new high-series Titanium+ and Sport+ variants that offer new levels of convenience and comfort.
“The all-new Focus represents the strengths and benefits of our global One Ford strategy in serving our customers across the region and in the Philippines,” said Randy Krieger, president of Ford Group Philippines.
Its “smart” features include Active Park Assist, Active City Stop, Blind Spot Information System, Smart Keyless Entry, and Ford Power Start. It’s powered by the new Duratec 2.0-liter Ti-VCT Gdi engine that combines high-pressure gasoline direct injection and twin independent variable camshaft timing for enhanced performance and fuel efficiency.
Delivering 170 PS of power and 202 Nm of torque, the engine generates almost 20 percent more power than the previous Focus 2.0-liter, while delivering a significant improvement in fuel economy, as claimed by Ford.
Both the four-door sedan and five-door hatchback models share a sporty and athletic character punctuated by a striking front end, sleek profile, and dramatic rising beltline, reflecting Ford’s acclaimed kinetic design form language.
The prices for the Focus variants are: P1.199 million for the 2-liter Focus Titanium+ sedan and the 2-liter Focus Sport+Hatchback; P989,000 for the 1.6-liter Focus Trend Hatchback and Sedan; P929,000 for the 1.6-liter Focus Ambiente Hatchback and Sedan; and P859,000 for the 1.6-liter Focus Ambiente Sedan MT.
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