Both the Focus hatchback and sedan boast extensive use of boron steel to increase vehicle stiffness and reduce weight. While the use of boron steel is not revolutionary on its own, it marks the first implementation of high-cost steel technology in a Ford, and likely the C-segment itself, according to Ford of Europe safety manager Matt Niesluchkowski. Ford claims that 55 percent of the body is composed of boron steel for a 30 percent increase in body rigidity. The Focus employs a boron steel front beam to channel energy absorbed in a crash through the roof rails and around the passenger compartment, and the subframe is designed to detach for better passenger footwell protection. Likewise, the B-pillar is strengthened with boron rolled in eight thicknesses, for a total vehicle weight savings of three pounds. The use of higher-quality materials like laminated windshields, as well as greater foam insulation, also gives the Focus an edge in sound insulation at city speeds, as compared with its top rivals.
Will Americans bite?
With the 2012 Focus, Ford is banking on a "paradigm shift" in the C-segment, in which potential buyers consider technology and fuel economy among their top priorities. The Focus will face its established competitors, Toyota's Corolla, Honda's Civic, and Volkswagen's Jetta, as well as the recently introduced Cruze and the forthcoming, next-generation Hyundai Elantra. Pricing has not yet been announced, but based on the amount of equipment listed as standard, we can predict an increase from its current sub-$17,000 base price.
By offering a sedan and hatchback with premium technology, safety, and structural components, Ford might be able to recapture disillusioned Focus aficionados as well as buyers from larger segments. We just hope that Ford avoids a repeat of the malaise that kept the current Focus from remaining world-class.