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Ford’s Focus Car Sales to Push European Plant to Full Capacity

Ford Motor Co. expects to sell enough Focus compact cars in Europe to reach full capacity next year at a German factory making the new version of the model, helping the automaker stem a decline in market share in the region.

Output of the Focus, which went into production today at a plant in Saarlouis, will probably reach the daily maximum of 1,850 cars by the end of January, Bernhard Mattes, who runs Ford’s German factories, said in a telephone interview. The car will go on sale as early as March in Germany and be available in other major European markets by the second quarter, he said.

The third generation of the Focus, to be offered worldwide, will include driver aids such as parking- and lane-assistance software. Ten-month sales of the current Focus, Ford’s second-best selling model in the region, slid 14 percent to 220,400 in 19 European countries. The Dearborn, Michigan-based company said Nov. 15 it expects 2010 European sales industrywide to slump to as little as 14 million vehicles.

“We decided to offer a worldwide version because the segment for small, compact cars is bound to grow significantly in the coming years around the globe,” Mattes said. “This is a very important product for the Saarlouis plant because it strengthens the development center and creates jobs.”

The car will start at $16,995 in the U.S., Ford said in October. A price for Europe hasn’t been set yet, Mattes said today. The company has invested 300 million euros ($399 million) in manufacturing equipment at Saarlouis and has offered 500 permanent jobs to temporary workers to build the Focus.

Production for the U.S. market has already started at a factory in Wayne, Michigan, Ford said in an e-mailed statement today. A plant in St. Petersburg will serve the Russian market starting in mid-2011 and factories in Chongqing, China, and Rayong, Thailand, will make the Focus for Asia starting in 2012.

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