ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA-Ford Motor Co. (Detroit) recently produced its 50,000th Focus automobile at the company's St. Petersburg assembly plant, underlining what the company calls a "strong position" in the former Soviet Union.

With more than 28,000 units sold in 2004, the Focus was the best-selling model among foreign brands in Russia for the second consecutive year. In total, Ford sold 38,700 vehicles in Russia in 2004, an increase of nearly 90 percent over the previous year. Market share increased from 10.5 percent in 2003 to 11.5 per cent in 2004.

To meet the strong demand for the Focus, Ford has added a third production shift to its St. Petersburg facility, increasing the site's employment by 420 to 1,570 people. Production of a new-generation Focus is scheduled to begin this May.

Ford Motor Co. is currently developing its dealer network across Russia, with a goal of expanding from 104 to 120 dealers by the end of this year. In addition, a new parts depot will be opening next month in Moscow to support the growing market.

Ford's fleet sales are also doing well, doubling the 4,640 vehicles sold in 2003 to nearly 10,000 in 2004. To strengthen fleet sales and service, Ford opened another dedicated commercial vehicle dealership in September 2004. Ford currently has three commercial vehicle dealerships located in Moscow and one in St. Petersburg.

Ford inaugurated its St. Petersburg plant in July 2002. With an initial plant investment of $150 million, Ford began production of the Ford Focus in August 2002. It increased its production from 3,600 units in that first year to 16,300 units in 2003 and 29,700 units in 2004.