THE FORD Focus has a fresh, distinctive design with which to challenge the Volkswagen Golf, GM Astra and others.
That will help put Ford back on track in Europe's largest segment after two lackluster generations of the Escort. Cost structure, pricing and model variations will be other keys.
But Ford will gain a quick advantage simply by launching the car successfully. A smooth, trouble-free ramp-up will be more than Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz managed on the Golf and the A-class. GM's Astra debuted six months late because of problems that arose before the launch.
With shorter development times and leaner development teams, it is not easy to bring out big-volume cars.
Getting cars into showrooms with the least resistance is an important measure of modern competitiveness.
The hardest part is bringing suppliers seamlessly into the process. With each new model vendors deliver more complicated modules.
The stakes are high.
A fast, clean getaway pays dividends over the life of a car. Good supply chain management is more important than ever.