Ford of Europe's Cologne plant in Germany today (14 August) began volume production of the redesigned 2009 Fiesta, the first of a generation of new small cars which will be sold world-wide.

"This all-new model of the Ford Fiesta has been conceived and developed by the European arm of Ford's global product development team to meet the demands and expectations of customers around the world," the automaker said in a statement.

"It is also the blueprint for future Ford global product development, bringing together Europe, the Americas and Asia. The new Fiesta will be tailored for each region and go on sale progressively between now and 2010, starting now with Europe."

Cologne is the first plant to build the new car in three- and five-door hatchback forms. Its Valencia plant in Spain - originally built for the first-generation model back in 1976 - begins production next January.

Plants outside Europe - in Nanjing, China, Rayong, Thailand and Cuautitlàn, Mexico - will begin to produce cars for their respective regions from late 2008 to early 2010, when North American sales - the first since the late 1970s - are scheduled to start.

Previous-generation Fiesta sedans have also been built in India and Brazil but there has been no official word yet from Ford about this body variant, which is more popular than the hatchback in some Asian, southern Europe and South American markets, and is also offered for some Japanese and Korean rival models in the US and Canada. A 'concept' version was, however displayed at a motor show in China last November.

In a video message to employees in Cologne, Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally said: "Today we are celebrating the start of a new era... The first product of our global product development system, the all-new Fiesta is an outstanding symbol for our One Ford vision of a single, global company designing and building cars for customers around the world. Be proud of what you have achieved and be proud of your contribution to a model that will get the world talking."

The automaker spent EUR455m restructuring and modernising the plant for the new model without interfering with outgoing Fiesta production.

New systems were installed and checked on the existing production line at weekends while some of the 50,000 hours of operator training was done off-line on static cars, as well as on-line.

In one example of the training undertaken over a six week period, the production team built the same car on the line every day, then stripped it down and built it again.

Ford plans to manufacture 148,000 new Fiestas this year and is ramping up to around 1,900 cars a day - new including the current European Fusion - on three-shift operation.

"The Ford Fiesta is very special to us in Ford of Europe and to our customers," said John Fleming, President and CEO, Ford of Europe. "Over the past 32 years it has consistently been at the top of the list of Europe's best-selling cars.

"Its dynamic, bold design and high manufacturing quality will attract a new generation of Fiesta owners and appeal to existing customers. I am confident that the all-new Fiesta will build on the success of its predecessor," he added.

Over 12m Fiestas have been sold since the original three-door hatch was launched in 1976, including over 400,000 in 2007. Cologne-built first-generation versions were sold briefly in the US in the late 1970s.

Cologne built 410,900 Fiestas and Fusions last year and exported 85% to around 50 countries.

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