FORD Australia has declined to say if the next-generation Ford Focus sold here will come from China rather than Thailand as the global car maker announces a major shift in global production for the small car.
Overnight, Ford US announced it would scupper plans to build a factory in Mexico to supply left-hand-drive versions of the Focus for the US market, and would instead source them mostly from China.
According to the car maker, the move to shift Focus production away from North America would save it about $A1.25 billion in investment costs, “improving the financial health of its Focus business and further improving manufacturing scale in China – all helping create a more operationally fit company”, it said in a statement.
Ford said production of the next-generation Focus would start in the second half of 2019, with models “coming from the company’s existing Focus plants globally”.
“Most new North American Focus models initially will come from China, with additional variants coming from Europe later,” it said, suggesting the next-generation German-made Focus RS was a potential starter for the North American market.
However, it doesn’t necessarily mean Australia will be a new market for the Chinese-built Focus.
“Today’s announcement relates to the global sourcing of Focus for North America only,” a Ford Australia spokeswoman told Wheels.
“We will have more to say about the next-generation Focus for other markets closer to the launch timing,” she said.
Almost all the Focus models sold in Australia come from the car maker’s Thai production line, which started making the small hatch and sedan range for Australia in 2012.
It’s a bitter irony: before it fell, Ford Australia had planned to build the Focus – a model earmarked to also earn valuable export dollars – alongside the Falcon large car and Territory large SUV, but controversially reversed its 2007 plans after Detroit revealed future versions of the Focus would instead be built in Thailand.
Ford Australia also reneged on an announcement that the Falcon would move to a fully imported V6 engine as part of a major overhaul of the large sedan and wagon range that could also have spawned a left-hand-drive development program.
Speculation is mounting, though, over where Ford Australia would source an as-yet unconfirmed version of the Ford Edge, a fully imported replacement for the locally made Territory. A five-seat version of the next-generation Edge due next year is flagged to come from Canada, while the current seven-seat version of the large SUV is only made in China.
Volvo is another car maker that plans to kick-start exports from China to some of its most important markets globally, which may potentially include Australia. The Chinese-owned Swedish brand already builds its S90 large sedan in China for export to the US; the version sold here is sourced from Sweden.