Opinion: Ford Explorer echoes Focus but DIY approach is dead

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The Ford Focus bushed Volkswagen Golf with fantabulous chassis hardware; however tin the caller Ford Explorer basal retired with a VW platform?

In immoderate ways, Ford’s motorboat of its caller mid-sized Explorer SUV carries beardown echoes of what was antecedently its biggest European merchandise event, the 1998 motorboat of the Ford Focus. But successful different ways, it’s a implicit contrast.

The Focus arrived connected a ngo to bash a amended European hatchback than anyone else. The mode to execute that, institution leaders said, was to travel a globalisation course; to marque a car that would bring Europe’s beardown merchandise values to Ford buyers crossed the world, with associated economies of scale.

It did this well, particularly astir 2012 erstwhile income were beardown successful the US, China, Canada and Australia, adjacent if they had declined somewhat successful Europe. 

The applicable task was ever to trump Golf, the perennial best-seller, truthful Focus came with progressive European styling, a beardown showing connected prime and reliability, and a sophisticated, headline-grabbing all-independent rear suspension that enactment each others successful the shade.

If European cars were amended dynamically than Japanese oregon Koreans – and they were – past the caller Focus bushed them all. Even VW’s all-powerful Ferdinand Piëch was caught disconnected guard: soon VW had to connection its ain all-independent rear set-up.

Ford ne'er bushed the Golf but it played the European crippled good until request for hatchbacks started to beryllium deed by buyers’ beardown plaything towards SUVs, by Ford’s ain inability (that ever hovered successful the background) to marque its European cars profitably, and by Dearborn’s hang-it-all determination to task a stronger American representation successful Europe arsenic a mode of making its products different. 

That’s wherever the contrasts betwixt Focus and Explorer are heaviest. Globalisation is simply a goner. So is the conception of Ford of Europe engineering each its cars from the crushed up. It inactive wants to marque large components — EV powertrains are an important country — but it doesn’t caput utilizing VW’s underbits for its beardown sellers. 

In the Focus heyday that would person been unthinkable. It’s a bold plan, adjacent if it involves a alternatively bittersweet shrinkage of Ford plan and engineering resources connected the broadside of the Pond. As ever it volition basal oregon autumn connected the Blue Oval’s quality to marque its all-new models desirable. But it does person a bully way grounds of that.