Ford Motor Co. will boost production of its Focus compact car by about 30 percent this year in response to surging demand, the automaker reports.
Ford will use overtime and Saturday shifts at its Wayne, Mich., plant the rest of the year to increase production of the Focus to 245,000 vehicles from 191,000 last year, company officials said.
The move illustrates the changing dynamics in the U.S. auto industry, where sales of pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles—long the profit centers for auto makers—have plunged amid rising fuel prices and softening economic conditions. Consumers have increasingly turned to more fuel-efficient vehicles such as the Focus, forcing auto makers to concentrate on developing and marketing smaller cars.
The Focus, which was revamped for the 2008 model year, has been a hit with consumers thanks not only to its fuel-saving attributes, but also for having higher-end options such as Sync, a system developed in conjunction with Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) that connects consumer electronic devices with the vehicle. Sync is only available on Ford vehicles.
Ford sold 49,070 Focuses during the first quarter, up 23% from the like period last year. Retail sales, excluding less profitable sales to fleet customers such as rental firms, rose 35 percent in the same comparison.
The Focus has a 7.6 percent share of the U.S. small car market, up 1.2 percentage points from a year ago, Ford said.
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