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Report: Is Ford Planning an FT-86 Rival, or is the Focus RS Finally Headed for North America?

AutoGuide sits down with Ford marketing boss Jim Farley to discuss the automaker's plans in the small sports car segment

 |  Dec 31 2009, 1:36 PM

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The idea of building a vehicle to compete with the Toyota FT-86 is “interesting,” but not necessarily the direction Ford has in mind when it comes to the future of small sporty cars. This is according to Ford marketing boss Jim Farley, who’s brain we had a chance to pick a few weeks back during a preview of the all new 2011 Focus.

With Ford having just announced the new 2011 Mustang and Mustang GT, with big increases in power (the V6 now making over 300-hp), it means the iconic pony car no longer competes in the same segment as vehicles like the Hyudai Genesis Coupe. (Not that it really ever did anyway). And with Toyota’s entry-level rear-drive sports car being prepared to hit the market, rumors have suggested that both Volkswagen and Kia are contemplating similar vehicles. So we thought we’d ask Ford about its plans.

“I do think the direction is interesting,” said Farley, but qualified that statement and sent the conversation in a new direction by commenting that what he sees as more compelling are cars like the Subaru WRX, which take a standard economy car (the Impreza) and turn it into a pocket rocket. That of course had the gathered journalists buzzing about the possibility that the Focus RS could very well make its way to North America.

The idea of a Focus RS also works with Ford’s new ONE Ford slogan, which is more than a marketing pitch, but an entirely new business philosophy for the American automaker.The idea is to build world car platforms to significantly reduce costs, from research and development to marketing.

And with an RS model being based on a Focus platform, and the new Focus a genuine world car, many of the roadblocks to bringing the RS to North American in the past are likely to be removed with the all-new Focus model, which is set to debut at the Detroit Auto Show on January 11th.

Even if an RS model never does get approved for North America there are possibilities for peppy small cars, from the Focus to the new Fiesta. During a discussion a day earlier with Dan Kapp, Director of Advanced Powertrain, Engineering and Research at Ford, we asked about the future of EcoBoost engines as performance options. Ford has already announced a new 2.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost 4-cylinder for Europe, which makes 200-hp and 221 ft-lbs of torque. It’s comparable to the same power a 3.0-liter V6 makes and is expected to be replace many V6 offerings in cars like the Fusion. Following the 2.0 EcoBoost will be a 1.6-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder that will make roughly 180-hp and 180 ft-lbs of torque.

While the original EcoBoost motor, the 365-hp 3.5-liter V6, is found in niche market luxury and performance cars like the Taurus SHO and several Lincoln models, Kapp suggested that future EcoBoost engines will be use as more of a mainstream fuel-economy alternatives in the future. He wouldn’t rule it out as a performance option, however, and when asked if the new 2.0-liter and 1.6-liter EcoBoost mills could be offered in cars like the Focus and Fiesta he said that he, “could imagine them being used as a performance option.”