DEAUVILLE, France - Mark Deans, Ford brand manager for small cars, thinks the Ford Escort is like a glass of Yorkshire bitter beer: 'honest, reliable, a great value for the money ... salt of the earth.'
The brand-new Ford Focus, he says, is like a new-world chardonnay wine. It is a fresh, bold beverage of a wholly different kind.
Deans says the Focus is not replacing the Escort any more than the chardonnay replaces the bitter. That is the marketing challenge Ford faces as it launches the Focus to the public this week at the Paris auto show.
The Focus will take the Escort's place in the lower-medium segment, but Ford does not want the public to perceive the new car as simply replacing the Escort. The Escort and the Fiesta are Ford's top volume cars, selling about 37,500 a month.
The Escort is a '30-year icon,' Deans said. 'We have to convince consumers this (Focus) is a different offering.'
Advertising created by Young & Rubicam will tell consumers they do not have to accept the usual compromises they might expect from an automobile. For example, Ford officials claim that motorists won't have to give up great handling to get a comfortable ride or high performance to get good fuel economy.
Ian McAllister, chairman and managing director of Ford of Britain, believes the Focus is versatile enough to pull buyers out of larger and smaller segments.
'This car is going to refashion the class the way the Cortina did in the 1960s,' he said.
Early reviews of the Focus in British automotive magazines have been positive.
The Focus will go on sale in France 12 October after the Paris auto show. Other European markets will follow. The company has not announced pricing, but in Italy, Ford will use a simplified price structure.