In Europe, Ford's Focus is now firmly established as the third best-selling lower-medium sector car behind the VW Golf and the Opel/Vauxhall Astra.
That's a good performance for such a radical car in Europe's largest - and arguably most conservative - segment.
While VW and General Motors played it safe with the conventionally-styled Golf and Astra, Ford risked alienating a generation of European Escort buyers when it decided to launch the highly original Focus. But it was a gamble that worked. Not only is the Focus selling well in Europe, it is being bought by younger, richer, private customers, and fewer fleets. That means residual values are higher, and the Focus has become a much more desirable car than its bland, unremarkable predecessor.
But Ford's in no position to sit back and congratulate itself. Forthcoming replacements for the Peugeot 306, Fiat Brava and Honda Civic will boost competition for the Focus. And, perhaps most importantly, Ford has no Focus variant in the rapidly growing compact minivan segment to rival the Megane-based Renault Scenic, Xsara-based Citroen Picasso or Astra-based Opel Zafira.
Ford won't have a Zafira-fighter until 2003 at the earliest. And that means no matter how good the Focus range is, it cannot currently compete with Europe's major players across the expanding lower-medium segment.