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Motor Trend 1998 Car Of The Year is The Chevy Corvette[an error occurred while processing this directive]


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Ford Focus Is Off to a Rousing Start

LONDON -- The Ford Focus, a subcompact that is replacing two distinct Escorts manufactured in Europe and North America, is Europe's car of the year.


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The Ford Focus sedan, above, and a three-door are on sale in Europe.

The award jury comprises automotive journalists from 21 countries. Of the 55 members, 42 gave the Focus their top votes, and it received a total of 444 points, beating the Opel/Vauxhall Astra (272), the Peugeot 206 (249), the Audi TT (235) and the Volvo S80 (175).

To some extent, the prize vindicates Ford's risky design for the Focus, especially the New Edge styling -- a combination of straight lines, curves and planes. The Focus has a clear resemblance to Ford's Ka city car and its Puma sporty coupe, niche vehicles that preceded the Focus to market in Europe.

The award does not guarantee sales success, but previous winners have done well. The Fiat Punto (1995), the Fiat Bravo/Brava (1996) and the Renault Mégane Scénic (1997) were all commercial successes.

The 1998 winner, the Alfa Romeo 156, had sales of 76,000 through the first nine months of this year; its predecessor sold only 10,000 units in the comparable period a year earlier.

The Focus replaces two separate platforms for the American and European Escorts. The Focus went on sale in Europe early last month, as three- and five-door hatchbacks, four-door sedans and station wagons. Sales begin next fall in the United States.

Last year, Ford sold 419,662 Escorts in Europe and 323,112 in North America.

A spokesman said Ford expected to sell a million Focuses annually worldwide.     

--WILLIAM DIEM


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