Ford Authority

Without Cars, What Will Happen To Ford Performance In North America?

Not too long ago, the Ford Performance stable was one of the last bastions of the manual transmission. Consider: the Ford Fiesta ST, Focus ST, Focus RS, and Shelby GT350 and GT350R Mustangs could each be had with a manual transmission – and only with a manual transmission. When the new F-150 Raptor came along for 2017 with a 10-speed automatic, ending an unbroken streak of glorious stick-shift performance machines, we accepted it because of the truck’s many other virtues. Among them: the ability to plow over rough off-road terrain at a high rate of speed as though it were a leisurely stroll to the grocery store.

Then, Ford revealed the 2019 Ford Edge ST, and followed the unveiling a few short months later with the announcement that there would be a Ford Explorer ST. Our faith was tested. That’s not even to mention that one time that Ford thought it would be a stellar idea to name its future high-performance electric crossover the “Mach 1”, after a beloved performance Mustang model from days past. The automaker later rescinded that use of the historic moniker, but we haven’t forgotten.

Now, with yesterday’s announcement that Ford will purge nearly every car from its North American lineup (save for the Mustang and crossover-like Focus Active), Ford Performance is in an even more precarious position in the region. At about the same time that Japan’s Honda Motor Co. is launching a campaign to promote proficiency with the manual transmission (per The Drive), Ford is turning its back on cars so that it can spend more time focusing on its automatic-only crossovers and SUVs – and, presumably, counting its money.

The respective futures of the Ford Fiesta ST, Focus ST, and Focus RS all seem perfectly safe in Europe. Will any of them make it to North America‘s shores, absent their more-pedestrian counterparts? The outlook isn’t good.

In all of this, the Mustang is safe. That fact, at least, provides some comfort. Better, chances are good that certain high-performance variants – the Shelbys, Performance Pack models, and perhaps even future iterations of the Boss – will stick around for the long haul as halo cars. We don’t imagine the Ford F-150 Raptor is going anywhere, either; the F-Series is the hottest automotive property in America, and the Raptor too much of a money maker to just disappear.

But by-and-large, those vehicles are aimed at buyers of a certain age, with a certain (high) level of income. The real casualties of Ford’s decision to trim its North American car lineup to nearly nothing are the young motoring enthusiasts. Go to any autocross in America today and you’re liable to see scores of youngsters running Focus STs, Fiesta STs, and the occasional Focus RS. Due to a mix of practicality and relative affordability (okay, the RS is pretty pricey), those models appeal most to the younger half of North America’s motoring population, and the percentage of stick-savvy teens and twenty-somethings who learned to drive manual on either ST is likely sky-high.

Without those cars, all that’s likely to remain of Ford Performance in North America is automatic family-hauling appliances with fancy engines, alongside a few high-performance Mustang coupes and a couple of other high-priced toys that are utterly inaccessible to a majority of America’s young motoring enthusiasts. The future of Ford Performance in North America is bleak.

And we never did get that Ford Fusion ST we’d been asking for.

Aaron Brzozowski is a writer and motoring enthusiast from Detroit with an affinity for '80s German steel. He is not active on the Twitter these days, but you may send him a courier pigeon.

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  1. lou

    All companies will build what they can sell. I needed to replace my wife’s ’06 Accord but wanted a bigger car. I went to my local Ford dealer to look at a Taurus. He had a hundred cars and trucks and SUVs but not one Taurus. I asked him why and he said that people don’t come in and ask for them anymore so he doesn’t order any. I did buy an SUV. I like cars but I can see the appeal of the SUV. It fits in the garage, has excellent cargo space, you sit higher and really drives nice and the standard equipment and options are great.


      You did not try hard enough, if you wanted the Taurus that bad, the dealer would of gladly got it for you from another dealer. Also I’m sure if you checked online you would have found a few Tauruses for sales within a 50 mile radius

      1. lou

        John, you are correct. A dealer 30 miles away did have two or three on the lot but we were looking more than shopping and we saw an SUV we liked and that is what we went with. The only point I was making and I did not make myself clear is that Ford had abandoned the Taurus long before they made the announcement to halt production.


    Ford Performance is a total joke. SRT vehicles and SS vehicles are performance vehicles. Now Chevrolet as a golden opportunity to take the Malibu and put it on the Alpha platform, give the sedan all of the options and trim levels the Camaro has and go from there. Even giving the Malibu the option of AWD on its 4 & 6 cylinder cars along with giving the Camaro those same options would be a great idea since Dodge has done that with its Challenger, Charger and Durango models. What Ford needs to do is honestly just drop out of the race completely. Their ecoboost platform is a total waste, Instead of trying to be so darn innovative and failing at every innovation, Follow the trend that GM and dodge have done so successfully. Take a rear wheel drive platform, make a coupe & a sedan, make a rear wheel drive midsize SUV and Trucks, drop a few decently sized pushrod v8 engines under the hood and call it a day. If Ford were to take a high tech 5.8L (351ci) pushrod V8, a high tech 6.4L s/c (390ci) push rod V8 a high tech 7.0L (428ci) and dropped them into a Mustang and an S650 platform sedan (Falcon), take the explorer and put the 5.8L and the 6.4L V8 under the hood and then focus on their trucks, Ford would be okay. So lets just say Ford had the Mustang & the Falcon on the S650 platform (GT with the 5.8L, a Mach 1 with the 7.0L and the GT500 with a supercharged 6.4L and the Falcon GT with the 5.8L, the Falcon Torino with the 7.0L and the Torino Cobra with the supercharged 6.4L) the Explorer (on the new RWD chassis with the 5.8L and a 7.0L as engine options to compete with the Durango R/T and SRT), the Bronco, the Expedition, the Ranger and the F-Series Pickup trucks plus a Maverick Electric performance SUV that “captures the soul of a Mustang” GM would have the Camaro & the Malibu on the Alpha chassis with a 6.2L SS, a 7.0L Z/28 and the 6.2L S/C ZL1 (obviously different names on the Malibu such as Malibu SS w/6.2L Malibu Chevelle SS with the 7.0L and just Chevrolet Chevelle SS on the 6.2L S/C), a Blazer based on the Colorado, the Tahoe/Suburban, the Colorado the Silverado Series and a Vega Electric performance SUV that is inspired by the Camaro and Dodge would have the new Maserati based Challenger (’72 body language), Charger (coupe & sedan with the ’99 concept body and a better front end similar to what we have now), Durango (based on the Maserati Levante Trofeo platform with Hemi engine options), a Durango based Dakota (with all four of those vehicles having a new 5.9L V8 based on the 5.7L with the Apache top end and exhaust system along with the new 7.0L Banshee and the new 725hp 6.2L Hellcat S/C V8), a Ram-Charger, the Ram Pickup series and a Duster Electric performance SUV inspired by the Challenger. Each company would have vehicles that would better compete with each other and they’d all be right on point side by side power wise.
    With that All three companies (GM, Ford, FCA) have other branches to their Brands that need pruning, Chrysler needs to be dropped on FCA and Buick needs to be Dropped out of the GM line leaving GM to have Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac while FCA will just have Dodge & Jeep and Ford will have Ford and Lincoln.) Here’s where things get a little tricky. I would truly love to see the Corvette become a part of Cadillac as it is a super premium line as it is America’s only real successful sports car. Wove to see Dodge bring out a viper-like Barracuda but that’s truly wishful thinking. With Cadillac, there needs to be serious distinction from the rest of the GM lineup in styling and drive train. I would say have the 3.0L Twin Turbo, the 3.6L Twin turbo, the new 4.2L twin turbo V8 and a 700+ horsepower 4.8L twin turbo V8 as the engine options and have the CT5, CT6, Escala, Elmiraj coupe, XT5, XT7 and Escalade as the model options with the Escalade going for a more angular, sporty more Cadillac look with a more lowered stance to differentiate it from any GMC or Tahoe/Suburban that it shares its platform with. The thing is though, all of the SUVs should be RWD based AWD platforms with the GM 10-speed transmissions. now for the XT5 & XT7 i would probably limit to the 3.0L or 3.6L engines for standard and V-Sport models while the CT5, CT6, Escala, Elimraj and Escalade should all have the 3.6L, 4.2L and 4.8L engines as options with the V8 twin turbo models being V-Sport and V model trim vehicles. GMC should move everything to being rear wheel drive platform vehicles and drop the Terrain, leaving the Acadia, the Canyon the Yukon and the Sierra vehicles with AT-4 trims and Denali trims. As far as Lincoln goes, the the Aviator and Navigator are okay but the continental either needs to completely change or get completely dropped. Now Lincoln is a great spot for engines like the Coyote and the ecoboost engines. The Continental is a great spot for the 480hp 5.0L V8 while a 420hp 3.0L and the 450hp 3.5L would go great in the Aviator and Navigator respectively. Lastly Jeep should be the luxury line for FCA with the lineup for jeep including the new Wrangler, the Cherokee (based on the Stelvio), the Grand Cherokee (based on the Levante like the Durango), the Wagoneer & the Grand Wagoneer. The Grand Cherokee should still keep its performance credentials with a 5.9L V8 Streethawk a 7.0L V8 Nighthawk and a 6.2L supercharged Trackhawk variants. The Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are really designed to be focused on the Luxury and not performance which makes them more candidates for engines such as the 2.9L 505hp Stelvio V6 in the Wagoneer and the 590hp Trofeo V8 in the Grand Wagoneer. Now with the Ford Maverick, The Chevrolet Vega and the Dodge Duster Electric performance Crossovers, they need to follow in the direction of the Jaguar I-Pace with a sporty decently sized high performance crossover with all wheel drive and massive power with instant torque that can destroy Tesla and put the company completely out of business with better reliability and less chances of these new electric vehicles catching on fire and blowing up.
    This lineup would take care of all of Americas complete car lineup now the only thing outside of this that would need work is Americas motorcycle lineup. While i am personally a huge fan of Nostalgia, it is true that times are changing and things are evolving. Harley’s new engines are Amazing but people are looking for less expensive bikes with great styling plus a variety of bikes not just old man cruisers. Harley did an amazing job with the the Fat Boy and the Ultra Cool Fat Bob, The Forty-Eight is a cool bike and so is the Roadster, the bike that should have gotten a lot more love was the Street Rod. The Street Rod needs to be the Fat Bob with Fairings and a more street fighter setup with a 29″ seat height the Fat Bob’s larger drive train with more of a sport bike feel. There also needs to be a Street fighter V-4 setup with about 200hp and lots of low end torque with the true feel and sound of a modern American muscle car possibly collaborating with Magnaflow or Borla exhaust systems. Once those models are in place then H.D can do other a few other things like that all electric sports bike that they built the concept for with the target of going after liter bikes. Harley really needs to add V-twin and V-4 sports bikes to their lineup but they need to make standard height versions and low versions with 29-30″ seats heights. those along with some of the cruisers and baggers would really show that HD trying to stick around and become something that can really compete with the rest of the world. The sports bikes need things like Brembo brakes, ABS, factory Magnaflow exhaust systems and things like that to really be competitive in today’s market and put Harley back on the map.

  3. David Wiggins

    There has been a Ford automobile with a manual transmission in my garage since I bought my first one back in 1977 before I could even drive legally. Forty-one years later I just bought a new Ford Focus ST because I could see the handwriting on the wall. The next generation Chinese-built Focus “Active” (whatever the hell that means) is only going to be available as a quasi-crossover, and I’ll be damned if I am going to drive an Outback wannabe with the class action suit horrifically flawed and awful PowerShit transmission. Nope. Not me. Give me a Ford CAR that’s built in the US with three pedals on the floor.

    For whatever reason Ford has flushed the ST performance brand down the toilet in the US. No more Focus RS or ST; no more Fiesta ST. What do we get to replace them? Can you say ‘Edge ST’ and the promise of an ‘Explorer ST’. Good grief, high-riding automatic transmission crossovers with an ST badge and sporting pretension? Good gravy Marie, are the inmates are running the asylum in Dearborn? It would appear so.

    Ford Motor Company in the US going to an all truck all SUV all crossover product line up–except the Mustang–is a short-sighted and short term solution to profits for shareholders. Ford is ceding the mass market automobile business that the company invented to the Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese. Perfect. Gas is cheap and plentiful and Jane Q. Public has no problem dropping $75 to fill up her F-150. This too will change, and everyone who is hauling their kids and dogs around in a four-door 6,000 pound pick up will make a beeline to their local Toyota dealer to lease a Prius. And Ford will be holding their hand on their ass because they don’t have an automobile product line to meet the next gas shock.

    So I’m going to drive my Michigan-built, 6-speed manual Ford automobile for a jillion miles I hope. When it’s time to replace the Focus ST, I guess I won’t be headed to my local Ford dealer. I won’t be able to buy an automobile there, and if today is any indication, I sure as hell won’t be able to buy a truck with a manual transmission. But maybe when the time comes to put the ST out to pasture Ford will be selling a 4-door, self-driving electric hybrid four wheel drive, high-riding Ford Mustang GTF-150. When that day comes, I’ll surrender my driver’s license.

    In the interim I’d say to the Ford Motor Company: Get your shit together for the North American market, and don’t put all of your customers in the truck/SUV/cross over box. If you do, you do so at your own peril.

  4. Donald Hayes

    I really feel Ford needs to keep a redesigned Fusion using a new rear wheel platform with Awd option. Sell 3-models SE base, Platinum luxury and an ST version with a simular engine being used in the new Aviator (400 HP/400 ft.lbs torque) with a hybrid option of 450 & 600 Awd. Maybe with a new rear wheel platform, a Coyote. It’s working for FCA with the Charger, especially the Chargers will the Hemi option. The base and luxury handles those wanting a family sedan and the ST for those looking for a great car with performance. It will work for Ford, but even better. The second vehicle is a hatch only Escort using the same type of models as the Fusion. Base, luxury and ST. Maybe s 2.0 Ecoboost standard with the ST using a simular engine as used in the F-150 or even the Ranger pushing the 300 HP range offering both automatic and manual transmissions. Still push to improved SUV and trucks while adding the Bronco, but not giving away thousands of sedan sales to the competition. I hate seeing the Taurus go away, but it’s not a big seller like the Fusion and Escort. Maybe revisit the Taurus in the US a few years from now. Keeping two cars with limited models is a better move than dropping them completely.

  5. Dean Fry

    I would like to see 2021 Focus ST from China so the people of United States can buy a car that does not cost and arm and leg so the unrich can have a new car.


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