Focus wins Semperit's Irish title


Ford's new Focus has won the Semperit Irish Car of the Year title, beating off competition from the Peugeot 407 and Toyota's hybrid Prius.

The Focus, introduced only a few weeks ago, received 104 point from the 30 motoring journalists voting on the award, against 95 points for the Peugeot 407 and 93 point for the Toyota Prius. Fourth place went to the Skoda Octavia with 78 points, while Opel's new Astra took 69 points.

While the Focus took the title by nine points, victory was far from clear earlier in the week, and until Tuesday morning the result was tied between the Peugeot and the Ford, both on 79 points, with the Prius then at 78. Points are awarded by motoring journalists in the Irish Motor Writers Association (IMWA). The Irish Times is not part of the association, and doesn't vote on the award.

Eddie Murphy, chairman and managing director of Ford Ireland, said: "The accolade is a testimony to Focus' strengths in the compact family segment."

The previous Focus was the best-selling car in Ireland for several years, losing out this year to the Toyota Corolla. However, Ford expects to achieve 3,000 advance orders for the new Focus in the coming weeks, and hopes to sell 8,000 models in all in 2005, according to Mr Murphy.

That, it is thought, will put them back on top of the sales league again, although Toyota representatives, speaking at the awards ceremony, remained bullish about the ability of the Corolla to hold on to premier place. Disappointed at the failure of the Prius to win favour with voters, they nonetheless took comfort in their international victory, winning the prestigious European Car of the Year title last week.

It's the second time that Focus has taken the title, with the original version winning in 1999.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Fine Gael leader, Mr Enda Kenny, called on the Minister for Transport, Mr Cullen, to introduce a more equitable application of the penalty points system.

He said that the current system, whereby the same points are incurred regardless of the offence, undermined public support for the points system.

Meanwhile the Irish van of the year award went to the Mercedes Vito.