Ford Banishes Fender Vents From Focus Coupe
By Kevin Miller
Making one of the best styling decisions of the year, or perhaps even the decade, Ford previewed its refreshed 2009 Focus Coupe last night on American Idol, and the minor makeover on the new-for-2008 Focus includes removal of the glued-on fender vent.
The fact that the vent showed up on the Focus should prove to anybody and everybody that the whole fender vent thing is over. The trend started a decade ago as a unique styling feature of the BMW Z3 (itself a tribute to the 507), and continued after the turn of the century with the introduction of the new MINI Cooper. Next came the blade-style vents on the 2003 Range Rover.
Such vents started to become mainstream when Buick added “portholes” to their Park Avenue in 2004, and continued them on the Lucerne in 2006. I questioned the styling cue and the lack of taste that caused GM to put them there. Sure, they were a nod to Buick’s design history, but why interrupt the nicely-shaped fender with tacked-on decorative trims, that will interrupt airflow and be an obstacle when washing the car? But I digress.
Soon the floodgates began to open. Ford Taurus and Super Duty trucks; Jaguar XJ, XK and XF; Jeep Liberty and Dodge Nitro; Land Rover LR3, LR2, and Range Rover Sport; Pontiac Solstice and G8; Cadillac CTS, STS and Escalade; Infiniti FX and and many other vehicles now feature fender vents, ranging anywhere from attractive to tolerable to downright hideous. Which is brings us back to the Ford Focus.
When it was redesigned for 2008, the North American Focus lost a lot of its personality and style. The back end and the front end are both fairly uninspired, as are the sides. We referred to the car’s styling as “nondescript” when we reviewed it in February. Which is perhaps why the designers at Ford tacked on the incongruous fender vent. The cheap-looking plastic decoration really calls attention to itself as a styling idea gone wrong, and looks out of place on the side of the economy car.
Ford’s press release about the restyled 2009 Focus, which uses the words “sport”, “sporty”, and “sportier” nine times, quoted Sam De La Garza, Focus marketing manager as saying “We’ve spent a lot of time talking with small-car customers and Focus enthusiasts.” He went on to explain that those people said a sportier-looking car would attract more customers. Evidently those customers had a lot of power over Ford’s Focus team, as they were able to persuade Ford to re-style the Focus Coupe in its second year of production.
In addition to removing the offending fender vents, the Focus team re-styled the coupe’s front and rear fascias to provide a “sportier” appearance. The now-standard fog lamps are better integrated into the overall design of the front fascia, and its signature two-bar chrome front grille and chrome accents around the headlamps have been darkened for added differentiation. The high-end Focus SES will feature a standard high-mounted spoiler that is incorporated into the design of the roof, while a decklid spoiler remains standard on the Focus SE. Dark Chrome 17-inch aluminum wheels complete look on the Focus SES.
There’s no word yet on whether any of these changes will make their way to the Focus sedan, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. If Ford is willing to start pulling the fender vents off of their Focus, maybe other manufacturers will soon follow suit, relegating the odd-shaped styling features to the history book where they can rest in peace along with all of the gold badging that was so popular a decade ago.
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