Bad news for fans of insane hatchbacks. Ford is concerned its rumored Focus RS500 could harm Mustang sales in the United States, and the lack of a viable US plan could kill the 390-horsepower Focus before it even hits dealerships. The reasons are much more dire than simple production constraints.
Citing “well-placed sources” at the Blue Oval, Autocar reports that concern over the RS500 “treading on other cars’ toes” is hurting the Focus’ chances. Those cars, of course, are the Mustang GT and Shelby GT350. It’s a valid worry.
Right now, the 435-hp Mustang GT starts at $32,920, the 350-hp Focus RS rings up at $35,900, and the 526-hp Shelby sits at $54,570. That kind of price/performance diversity is good. But imagine an RS500 comes to market with 390 hp and a starting price in the $40,000 to $45,000 range? If you were studying a well-equipped Mustang GT Premium, jumping up to the hotter (and rarer) RS500 could be a smart investment. And for GT350 consumers, the RS500 could provide similar track-day thrills at a $10,000 to $15,000 discount – that’s a lot of money owners could otherwise spend on tires and track time.
Without US sales, Autocar reports, the internal numbers aren’t looking good for the RS500. And the case looks worse after considering the standard RS’ difficult birth. According to AC, it took serious efforts by Ford product chief Raj Nair to convince the Blue Oval’s notorious bean counters to see the light. If the accountants and US dealers are worried the RS500 could hurt Ford’s performance mix, even Nair’s persuasion might not be enough.
A compromise could come in the form of an “RS500-lite,” specifically for the European market. But because the lack of US sales would demand a smaller budget, an AC source said Ford Europe worries the lack of unique technical content in such a model “might dilute the RS brand.”
In other words, it sounds like a vehicle we’re eager to see happen is stuck between a rock and a hard place – too hardcore to play nice in US showrooms, and not hot enough to properly represent the RS brand in its home market.