As a former film student, I have always marveled at the magic of the movies. Specifically, I mean the sheer physical magic by which a series of discreet, still photographs springs alive into motion before our very eyes. By means of the neuro-ocular quirk identified as "persistence of vision," our minds simply refuse to acknowledge the staccato blur of 24 frames-per-second streaming past, no matter how hard we focus on the screen.
Even though it's illogical to equate static images with moving reality, we defer to a persistent mental interpreter that allows us to give in to the illusion of motion--otherwise, we'd be hopelessly distracted and we'd never keep up with the story. All this has very little to do with automobiles, of course, and yet it's uncanny how faithfully the new Ford Focus suite of subcompacts depends on this same technique in pursuit of that automotive holy grail, the World Car.
A New World Car
It has been Ford's persistent vision, after all, to design, build, and sell a nearly identical car in all the world's markets--for the betterment of global commuters and the enrichment of the corporate treasury. In 1981, the Ford Escort/Mercury Lynx was meant to be just such a car; and if you count the countries and continents where this functional econobox appeared, its diffusion was global indeed. But on the one continent that mattered then and matters still—all-dominant North America—overall sales of the car were a dud. At least Escort/Lynx didn't consume the more than $6 billion in development costs that have resulted 18 years later in the Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique fiasco. Despite the rave, and deserved, success of the European Ford Mondeo—from which the Contour/Mystique platform was derived—upscale, $20,000 sport-sedans that emphasize sophistication over size apparently have no place in U.S. driveways.