THE FORD FOCUS RS500 super-hatch is on the verge of being canned because the business case for it looks weak. Although the project hasn’t yet been officially called off, sources give the RS500 only a 30% chance of making production. Ford had been planning to position the RS500 above the hugely successful 345bhp Focus RS by giving it a power hike to nearly 390bhp, track-focused handling and more aggressive styling. Sightings of a test car suggest the model’s development was already under way. However, the RS500 has run into some obstacles. One is where the RS500 will fit in with Ford’s other performance models – most notably, the 410bhp Mustang 5.0 V8GT and 526bhp Mustang Shelby GT350.
“It could be treading on other cars’ toes,” said a well-placed source. Overlap with the Mustangs is not such a problem for Ford of Europe, which believes there is a market for both the RS500 and the Mustang. However, in the US, this is understood to have put a question mark over the RS500 and whether Ford’s US dealer network wants the car. Autocar understands that without US sales, the RS500 project is struggling to hit its internal forecasts. Ford is understood to have looked at an ‘RS500 lite’, built around solely European sales, but the smaller budget would have cut back on its technical content. “Then it might dilute the RS brand,” another source told Autocar.
Time is also pressing on the decision, with the window to get the RS500 into production closing as the current Focus heads towards its run-out phase at the end of next year. Even the brilliant current RS, one of Autocar’s few five-star cars, took a huge effort to push through Ford’s strict new-model project gateways, Tyrone Johnson, the RS’s chief engineer, told Autocar in May that Ford product development chief Raj Nair made the difference and won over Ford bean counters with persuasive arguments in the project’s final meeting. Nair may need to work his magic once again and intervene to get the RS500 into production.