LONDON -Ford Motor Co. probably will include Mazda, and maybe Volvo, on the next generation Focus platform, the company said.
The redesigned Focus is due around 2003 or 2004.
Ford and Mazda now are actively 'exploring ways' to develop the next generation Focus and its Mazda counterpart on the same platform, said David Thursfield, president of Ford of Europe Inc.
If Volvo is involved, the brand would add a car below the S40 and V40, its smallest cars.
Ford is restructuring its operations to give its regional units - known internally as Consumer Business Units - more ability to respond to customer needs by designing the vehicle packaging for each market, Thursfield said.
That means basic platforms will be developed globally, capitalizing on economies of scale resulting from Ford's size. But the 'hat,' or top of the car - the part the customer sees - will be developed within the regions.
'I believe we can come up with a strategy that satisfies the requirements of the (Focus-sized) segment,' Thursfield said.
Ford has given lip service to this approach for at least a decade but so far hasn't made it work well in showrooms on various continents.
For example, the Mondeo was a success in Europe, but its North American counterparts, the Contour and Mystique, failed in North America primarily because of the lack of rear-seat legroom and luggage space.
Ford's European product development officials have been exploring closer ties with Mazda, in which Ford owns a controlling share. Those ties were bolstered late last year when Ford of Europe last year named Martin Leach, the former Mazda Motor Corp. managing director for product planning and design, to its top European product development post. Leach assumed his duties at the beginning of January.
Thursfield, newly installed president of Ford of Europe, joined Ford of Europe Chairman Nick Scheele here for a press conference to announce that Ford will drop one shift from its Dagenham plant east of London as of August.
The action was a result of Ford of Europe's plant overcapacity and its poor financial performance. About 1,500 of Dagenham's 8,000 workers will lose their jobs. The plant assembles the Fiesta and the Courier, a small commercial vehicle.
Workers at the Dagenham assembly plant had been working four-day weeks for 18 months.
Ford is moving up the development of the next-generation Fiesta by about eight months. The new Fiesta will now appear in November 2001. Ford's Cologne, Germany, plant now will be the lead Fiesta plant instead of Dagenham, which will continue to make right-hand-drive versions.