Ford Plans Smaller Focus Engine for U.S. in Fuel-Efficiency Push

Ford Motor Co., the second-largest U.S. automaker, plans an optional smaller engine for its updated Ford Focus compact car to woo U.S. drivers looking for improved fuel efficiency.

U.S. customers will be able to buy the Focus with a 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine that will deliver greater fuel efficiency, in addition to the current 2.0-liter engine, Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford said in an e-mailed statement. The 2015 Focus will be revealed today at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and displayed at the Geneva Motor Show on March 4. It will go on sale in the second half of this year. The current version was redesigned in 2010.

“Fuel efficiency, obviously, critical to this segment, is a critical piece of the Focus story,” Raj Nair, Ford group vice president of global product development, told reporters last week. We “wanted to take that even further with the new Focus.”

The Focus is among several models U.S. automakers are making to compete with Japan-based Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., which used to dominate the segment for vehicles that get better mileage. The car is part of Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally’s effort to overhaul the company’s lineup to balance its strength in big pickups and sport-utility vehicles.

Other changes to the Focus include a new front end that gives the vehicle a sportier look similar to Ford’s larger Fusion sedan.

While pricing for the latest model wasn’t released, the 2014 Focus begins at $16,810 in the U.S., according to Ford’s website. The 2014 Ford Focus SFE with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine gets 28 miles (45 kilometers) per gallon in city driving and 40 mpg on the highways, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

German Production

Ford already offers a 1.0-liter engine in the Fiesta in the U.S. and in five nameplates in Europe where it accounts for 32 percent of Focus sales, the company said in the statement. The automaker doubled production capacity at its Cologne, Germany factory to build more than 1,000 engines a day.

The updated Focus will be offered with a rearview camera standard for the first time, the company said. Other updates in technology include an optional safety system that warns the driver when they’re not staying in their lane or when another vehicle has entered the car’s blind spot.

The European version of the Focus will mark the introduction of Sync 2, Ford’s in-car connectivity system, and new 1.5-liter EcoBoost gas and diesel engines.

Toyota Spat

Ford is releasing images of a hatchback version of the Focus, while a sedan will be shown at the New York auto show in April, the company said.

“Our job was to make it visually more athletic,” Moray Callum, vice president of design, said of the exterior changes.

Global Focus sales rose 16 percent last year to more than 1.1 million, said Nair, who spoke to reporters in Dearborn.

The automaker, citing researcher R.L. Polk & Co.’s data, in October contended that the Focus was the top-selling nameplate in the world through the first half of last year with sales helped by increased demand in China. Ford has said it overtook Toyota’s Corolla compact as the world’s sales leader in 2012, something the Japanese automaker disputes. Toyota includes Corolla derivatives such as the Matrix in its count.

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