Ford Motor Company has done a great job with launching the Focus RS today, watching the enthusiast press and gear heads on Facebook, Twitter & G+ go on about it has been interesting. Here are the three things almost no one is addressing.
#1 You won’t be able to buy this for 14-17 months most likely, and I base that off of Ford’s history of showing off a new model or version of a current model, and it’s time frame to come to market. If the car is as good as it looks people want to buy it now, but they can’t. In the mean timeVolkswagen USA is happy to sell them a Golf R and Subaru of America, Inc. an STI and has quite a bit of time to convince those potential buyers to scratch that itch.
The lead time on the Focus RS is WAY to long, a two to four month lead time, sure, however, you make people wait 12-18 months, (a) they will purchase something else in the interim, (b) keeping peoples interest that long isn’t going to happen in the back half of the 2010’s, (c) if it fails to live up to expectations the fallout will be 10X worse BECAUSE you forced people to wait.
Look at Ford’s F150 and Mustang launches this year. Yes were well received, and they are good vehicles, however, there is an air of disappointment about both vehicles. The F150, for all of the tech involved, when real world tests are conducted, isn’t that much of a leap forward, and the weight reduction merely gets to down to the weight of the competition or there abouts. For the Mustang, the car once again gains weight and size when every Mustang fan that I’ve spoken to in the last three or four years, be it drag race, road race or daily driving enthusiast, wanted something smaller and most importantly, 200-500 LIGHTER. These two vehicles are the Crown Jewels of the Ford empire and while they will sell well, they are covered with disappointment.
#2 This ties in a little bit with the point number one and the lead time, and it’s about the lack of details. Oh yes, the PR people will tell this gives us time to spread out the information, horsepower and torque, weight, performance, fuel economy, etc., keep up the interest and such. Again, if this was 2003, perhaps. In watching what Ford did with F150 and Mustang, the initial launches had the splash they wanted, but as the information dripped out, the reaction of the general public, was, “get on with it already”.
Over the next 12 months we will find out that the “315+ horsepower” will end up around 330, the weight close to 3,400 lbs (OUCH!!) fuel economy about 3-4 less than the ST, 0-60 in 5 seconds and the quarter mile in 13.7-14.0 seconds, and the price, by the time you add destination, $40,000. While I’m sure there are some calibration details still going on, if, this close to launch those numbers aren’t nailed down, oh boy!
#3 It’s the price. Now, at $40,000 that’s not out of line with the Golf R, or the Subaru STI, but really are there really that many people who are making the $70,000+ to afford that payment? Lets not kid ourselves, 75% of the buyers are going to be financing most of that purchase, so, say to finance $35,000 over 6 years, because that is now the norm, and money is still cheap, so a 4.9% interest rate, you are at $562/mo, and that is before insurance, so toss another $200-$400/mo on for that. So, $750 a month all in? That is a HELL of a proposition, no matter how good the car is.
You know who got this right? Chrysler of all people. I’m not a huge fan of the Charger and Challenger, they are both far to large and heavy, but with the Hellcat they got it right, from announcement, to press drives to available for sale in under 6 months! They still got all buzz, all the run, and because of the shorter time frame, the lather they built up didn’t get old, it was just enough so that as it was beginning to fade, the cars were on sale, and then, the new news cycle for them began.
People far smarter and or far more educated can give me the reasons why I’m wrong about all the above, but now, after watching the industry for 30 years, you are going to have a tough time convincing me differently.