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Ford likely to build '11 Focus at 2 plants

DETROIT — When Ford Motor Co. introduces a European-developed Ford Focus in late 2010, it is likely to produce the U.S. model in two plants.

The 2011 Focus probably will be built in Wayne, Mich., and Louisville, Ky., said industry sources familiar with Ford's product plans. Ford makes the current Focus only at the Wayne factory. The Louisville plant currently makes the Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer SUVs.

But small cars are hot, and Ford is selling all the Focuses it can produce. Last Friday, Ford ramped up capacity for the small car for the third time this year. The automaker is adding a third shift to the plant's paint and body shops. It is speeding up the assembly line, which runs on two shifts already on overtime.

With the changes, Ford expects to be able to produce 280,000 units of Focus annually. The Focus had sales of 173,213 in 2007. Focus sales are up 35.7 percent in 2008.

"We view the move to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles as permanent, and we are responding to customer demand," Ford CEO Alan Mulally said a statement Friday.

That demand sets up a good prognosis for the 2011 Focus. Ford confirmed Friday that sedan and five-door hatchback versions of the European-developed Focus will go into production in North America in late 2010.

The new model is expected to be assembled alongside other small-car variants such as the C-Max crossover, sources said. Ford already sells the C-Max in Europe and could build it in Wayne beginning in 2011, the sources said.

The next Focus will arrive just three years after a re-engineered and restyled model went on sale in 2007. That quick replacement wasn't a reaction to $4-a-gallon gasoline. Ford has been planning it for more than a year as part of Mulally's strategy to share vehicles globally.

That 2011 Focus will be largely common with models sold in Europe, South America and Asia. Ford said last week that the global Focus will have "excellent" fuel economy, achieved through new direct-injection engine technology and a new six-speed transmission. 

You can reach Amy Wilson at awilson@crain.com

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