Ford's European Struggles: Discontinuation of Focus Sparks Concern

Ford's European division is grappling with significant challenges, highlighted by a 17.5% sales decline and the impending discontinuation of the Focus, Europe's most popular model, raising concerns about its future in a competitive market

by Sededin Dedovic
Ford's European Struggles: Discontinuation of Focus Sparks Concern
© Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

The European branch of the American car manufacturer has fallen on hard times. Experts believe that the discontinuation of the Focus next year, one of the two remaining important "old" models, will lead the brand into serious trouble and an even lower position in the European market, where Ford is already experiencing a 17.5% decline.

Ford's European division is on shaky ground. The company has been unsuccessfully working on transforming into an electric vehicle brand for several years (even collaborating with Volkswagen), guided by market analysts who were clearly mistaken.

However, not all the blame lies with the analysts and strategists. Most manufacturers have been forced to redefine their strategies, especially after the European Union postponed the Euro 7 emission standard to 2030. Ford is not the only one that missed the mark by relying too heavily on the announced regulations, but unlike its rivals, it too quickly disposed of its old vehicle lineup.

Ford is a prime example of a brand that paid the price for believing that electric vehicle sales would boom. The brand previously got rid of all important models overnight, from the Galaxy and S-Max to the Mondeo, C-Max, and Fiesta.

The Focus will also end its career next year, which is a major concern for the industry. Among conventional vehicles, which currently have significant market interest, only the Kuga and Puma will remain. But is that enough for such a large manufacturer? By 2025, Ford's catalog will be much poorer compared to the competition.

The Puma, Kuga, Bronco, Mustang, and Tourneo will remain as representatives of models with internal combustion engines, joined by the new EcoSport, while on the electric side, there will be the Mustang Mach-E and Explorer Electric, soon to be joined by the battery variant of the Puma and the new Capri.

An electric Ford truck is displayed during the Electrify Expo In D.C. on July 23, 2023 in Washington, DC.

The expo highlighted n© Nathan Howard / Getty Images

The brand has confirmed that it will continue to rely on plug-in hybrids to save costs, but aside from the Kuga PHEV, which is keeping up with the competition in the market, Ford doesn't have another adequate plug-in hybrid offering.

Ford's sales in the first quarter of this year show a 17.5% decline, and with a limited offering of popular models, it will be very difficult for them to bridge the period until the next decade. Experts believe that serious consideration should be given to whether the Focus really needs to be discontinued or if its life can be extended with another redesign, a popular solution that doesn't require significant investment and is increasingly practiced by other manufacturers.

If the stars align and the electric vehicle market takes off, the picture will be completely different. However, operating with only two key models can be uncertain and extremely limited in achieving the sales figures and former status that "European" Ford enjoyed on the Old Continent.

British media report that Ford will not extend the life cycle of the Focus after 2025, despite the broad decline in demand for electric cars that has prompted some competing manufacturers to slow the phase-out of their internal combustion vehicles.

Autocar recalls that Ford announced in 2022 that it would close the Focus production line in Saarlouis, Germany, in mid-2025. So far, it has been unsuccessful in finding a buyer for that location, but European head Martin Sander said the company has "no plans to extend Focus production." Sander said that Ford remains committed to phasing out internal combustion engine models and advancing the transition to EVs.

"In the long term, we are still deeply convinced that EVs will be the future and that we will see a significant increase in volume." He added: "By the end of this year, we will have a full range of electric vehicles – both in the passenger vehicle sector and in our commercial vehicle line – and we are quite flexible to adapt to market demand.

In the coming years, we will have a wide selection. In essence, our customers have the power to choose what they want." The next-generation electric pickup, codenamed "T3," is delayed from late 2025 to 2026. It is being built at the factory in Tennessee for electric vehicle assembly in the BlueOval City complex, although Ford says it is currently installing stamping equipment that will produce sheet metal for the truck.

In addition to these announcements, the company revealed a new incentive for hybrid vehicles. They stated that they plan to offer hybrid powertrains across the entire Ford Blue line by 2030. Despite the aforementioned delays and the shift to hybrid vehicles, Ford says it remains committed to electric vehicles and continues to build battery factories in Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

However, it is no secret that the electric vehicle market is not as robust as companies once hoped it would be. Perhaps it's the high entry cost, unregulated charging infrastructure, or the fact that some electric vehicles do not qualify for federal tax credits.