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Fri, Feb 23, 2001 EST
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Ford Announces Hatchback Revival With Focus ZX5
By Jim Suhr   Associated Press
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DETROIT — Bell-bottom jeans and platform shoes have made their comebacks. Ford Motor Co. now hopes the '70s hatchback can do the same.

The world's second-largest automaker plans to supply North American showrooms with its five-door Focus ZX5 hatchback this fall.

Analysts appear split on whether hatchbacks can be revived like John Travolta's career or whether they will go the way of the Pet Rock.

"Hatchbacks just don't make a fashion statement," said Ron Pinelli of Autodata Corp. "American tastes are just not in hatchback mode, and I'd be surprised if those cars could be cool again here."

Nextrend's Chris Cedergren said he thinks young people will find the ZX5 intoxicatingly European.

"You can't say five-doors have been dead in this market, so they'll be dead in the future," Cedergren said. "I think they'll prove successful."

Toyota, Honda and Mazda essentially have abandoned the hatchback in the United States, where Pinelli believes such vehicles are viewed as cheap economy cars.

But Ford is betting that younger buyers will like the ZX5, with its four doors, hatchback and foldable rear seats.

"Perhaps it's because today's buyers have become so accustomed to the shape and functionality of SUVs and minivans," Martin Inglis, head of Ford's North American operations, said Wednesday at the Toronto auto show.

Ford has not said how much the ZX5 will cost but expects to sell about 20,000 in the United States, where its only true competitor — Volkswagen AG's Golf — sold 28,124 last year.

The Focus debuted last year as the fifth-best selling car in the United States with 286,166 units sold, trailing only the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Taurus and Honda Civic.

Ford introduced the Focus ZX5 during its North American debut Wednesday at the Toronto auto show. The model already has proven popular with Europeans, making up 44 percent of Ford's Focus sales there last year, said George Pipas, Ford's sales analyst.

"That's huge," he said.

But Pinelli said differences between European and American consumers explains the ZX5's popularity overseas. To him, Europeans put more of a premium on a vehicle's functionality, cargo space and mileage than do Americans "more concerned about how they'll look driving it."

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