Production Of Focus Key To Ford's Future Success

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Ford Motor Co. on Monday started high-volume production of its new Focus compact at its Saarlouis factory in Germany, the company said.

Early U.S. production of the car is now under way at a factory near Detroit, with the Focus due in U.S. showrooms early next year.

The car, designed in Europe for sale in 120 markets around the globe, will be built in mid-2011 in St. Petersburg, Russia, and in 2012 when new plants start up in Chongqing, China, and Rayong, Thailand, the company said in a statement.

In Europe, Ford will sell four-door Focus sedans, a five-door hatchback version and a wagon, but only the sedan and hatchback will be sold in the U.S.

The Focus, which is far sleeker and more efficient than the current U.S. model, is an important vehicle for Ford as it tries to build the essentially the same cars across the globe to save on design, engineering and manufacturing costs. The basic design and about 80 percent of the Focus parts will be common to all models worldwide. Some variation in the models is required because of varying consumer tastes and different pollution control and safety standards between countries.

The Focus is being built on Ford's new compact underpinnings that will spawn other vehicles worldwide. The company expects to product more than 2 milllion vehicles per year off the common platform by 2012.

More than 10 million Focuses have been sold around the world since the first model was introduced in 1998. Six million of these cars were sold in Europe, with the Saarlouis plant building almost 3.7 million.

The Saarlouis plant has more than 6,500 employees, and Ford said it has invested over 3 billion euros in it to keep it modern. It can build up to 1,850 vehicles per day on three shifts. Currently it builds the Focus and Kuga model lines, the Dearborn, Mich., company said.

In the U.S., the Focus is expected to get around 40 mpg on the highway and sell for around $16,000.