The star of Ford's La Collection Focus at the Paris Motor Show is the Vignale Concept and it is said the success of the subcompact range will be crucial to future profitability of the Blue Oval’s European division.

The star of Ford's La Collection Focus at the Paris Motor Show is the Vignale Concept and it is said the success of the subcompact range will be crucial to future profitability of the Blue Oval’s European division.


As CARtoday.com reported recently, the new-generation Focus is the last of four cars off Ford's C1 platform… and it could be the most important, Ford of Europe chairman Lewis Booth said last week.


"Focus is our highest-volume car line in Europe, so it's very important we get it right and achieve sales success," he added.


Ford's C1 Global Shared Technologies product development program has already spawned the Mazda3, Volvo S40/V50 and Focus C-Max small MPV. The parent company's aim was to save money by designing common parts invisible to customers and spending the savings on brand-specific features.


"Ford's market share, which has been sliding, would have gone into an almost catastrophic slide if (current) Focus hadn't been as successful as it was through the mid-part of its cycle," a UK-based automotive analyst was quoted as saying.


Ford is trying to recover lost market share. In 1991 it sold 1,57 million cars in Europe and had an 11,8 per cent market share. Last year, Ford sold 1,2 million cars and had an 8,6 per cent share.


The new Focus is less radical than its predecessor, but its sloping rear roofline is a big change. It is also 25 mm longer and has a 40 mm wider track than the model currently on the South African market.


"Why change a platform that was class leading?" the analyst asked. "They needed the flexibility to respond to market trends toward wider cars, taller cars, sport-utilities and other niche vehicles."


One such niche vehicle could be the Vignale Concept. Displayed alongside the all-new Focus production range in Paris, the Vignale is apparently a one-off design study. However, the coupé/cabriolet is so similar to Peugeot’s 307 CC and Renault’s Mégane CC in its design and application that we would not be surprised to see the Focus concept go into production in the near future…


”The Ford Focus Vignale Concept clearly demonstrates the possibilities to expand the all-new Focus family into specific niches," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford's European vice president for product development.


At the push of a button, the coupé transforms into an open-top convertible. Its bootlid tilts open and its retractable hardtop folds backward to stow cleanly in the boot.


A modern execution of designs found in Alfredo Vignale's spyders from the Sixties, the car’s door handles are elegantly sculpted in a lozenge shape of polished aluminium. Yet, unlike the Sixties original, a finger push now activates the doorcatch electronically.


The exterior is highlighted by the use of bright polished aluminium, which evokes the chrome of past grand touring cars from Italy. A narrow, polished aluminium strip stretches horizontally along the length of the vehicle at its sills, emphasising the confidence of the vehicle's stance, and it is mirrored by another horizontal strip at the lower edge of the side window graphic.


Its new-look chrome grille has horizontal bars and lower aluminium touches continue at the front and rear of the vehicle, giving visual emphasis to front air ducts and rear exhaust outlets and adding a bold strip along the edge of the bootlid between the tail lamps.


Inside, the Vignale has “Amalfi Light” leather and suede surfaces and subtle “Acqua” accents. The seat inserts have horizontal ribbing, another retro styling cue, and the upper instrument panel is finished in “Black Abalone” coloured leather, while the lower is “Amalfi Light “ suede.