If you had a Wayback Machine, and dialed in the “five to 10 years ago” setting, and for some reason you decided to go to the Philadelphia International Auto Show, you’d see some different things compared to this year’s installment.
Instead of highlighting Hummers, pickup trucks, different Corvette variations and reborn pony cars, the 2011 show, which runs Jan. 29 through Feb. 6, is focusing on fuel economy — stylish economy, but economy nonetheless.
It’s what the people want, according to Ford’s regional manager David Principato.
“A lot of people in the last few years have ‘right-sized’ their life — cheaper house, cheaper this, cheaper that — because of the economy,” Principato said. “We’ve seen that in vehicles, as well. If customers can find a vehicle that suits their needs, but offers it in a smaller, more affordable package … they’re moving toward that.”
In the next 60 days, the new Focus will hit the streets; Principato called it unlike any other Focus. Its “target” was the Audi A3 in terms of luxury and refinement. It also has a silhouette similar to the A3, and a 2.0-liter inline-4 like the A3— without the turbocharger, but with a price starting at under $17,ooo.
In a few months, Ford will introduce an SFE model, which gets more than the standard version’s 40 mpg highway by rolling on low-resistance tires with a less interesting wheel design (with fewer spokes). And in about a year, Ford will introduce the Ford Focus ST, its performance variant, with a 2.0-liter, direct-injected, twin-turbo four putting out 245 horsepower. (The engine will make its debut on the Explorer.)
Flanking the Focus on either side of the stage were the newly redesigned and sleeker Ford Explorer (which was sorely in need of a redo) and Ford’s small minivan, the C-Max, which has the footprint of the “original” minivan, introduced by Chrysler in 1984.
Last year, Ford showcased its uber-small Fiesta, which has a prominent display in this year’s show.
Electric versions of the Focus and C-Max are expected in the fourth quarter, according to Principato.
The Mustangs and pickup trucks were shoved to the side.
“Listen, there’s no question — the price of gas is going to go up, and people have indicated that they are willing to settle for something that’s not the behemoth that they used to drive 10 years ago — it’s not necessary,” Principato said. “As long as the vehicle is safe, gets great fuel economy, is comfortable and delivers the features that they want, they’ve been willing to make the changes.”