Development of the all-new 2012 Ford Focus is already underway in Europe, but work on the new compact offering is also progressing here in North America. In fact, Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, is already starting to produce the new cars.
Exciting? Perhaps, but don’t look for these examples to wind up at a friendly Ford dealer. Although the plant will begin full-scale production later this year, these early batches of cars are pre-production units, which allow Ford to test both its finalized design in the real world while simultaneously refining the assembly process.
That assembly process in and of its self is newsworthy. Previously home to F-150, Expedition, and Navigator production, the Michigan Assembly plant was completely overhauled earlier this year to focus on small-car production. Additionally, Ford tooled the facility to utilize a flexible assembly line, allowing it to build several variants of the new Focus — including an electric-powered version, also due in 2012 — and possibly other offerings sharing the company’s C-segment platform.
Programmable equipment within the body shop allows such flexibility without the traditional downtime associated with physical retooling. Better yet, if consumer demand quickly changes (say the market suddenly craves hatchbacks, not sedans), Ford can quickly and inexpensively adjust output to match.
“If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that customer’s wants and needs can change quickly — much more quickly than we have been equipped to respond to efficiently in the past,” Jim Tetreault, vice president of Ford’s North American manufacturing, said. “At Michigan Assembly, we will achieve a level of flexibility we don’t have in any other plant around the world, which will allow us to meet shifting consumer preferences in real time.”
In addition to producing the new Focus, Ford is moving production of some of the smaller pieces of the car to the Michigan Assembly Plant. Items such as moon roofs, instrument panels, engines, doors, and interior trim — parts typically left to suppliers — will be produced alongside the new Focus.
Is there any 2012 Focus that catches your fancy? Should the Focus Wagon, shown at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, eventually make its way stateside, or would it crib sales from both the five-door Focus hatchback and the new Grand C-Max mini-minivan? It’s your turn to play product planner; send us your advice in the comments section below.