Ford of Europe says its European ambitions remain intact despite a move last week to cut an additional 150,000 units of capacity, Automotive News Europe reported.

Ford's decision to cancel tooling for the next-generation Focus at its factory in Genk, Belgium, and lay off 3,000 workers will reduce its excess European capacity to a bare minimum. The company is now operating at about 90%.

The decision also leaves the fate of the Genk plant hanging on the next-generation Mondeo. The current Mondeo has been a disappointment as premium manufacturers have grabbed sales from mass-market brands like Ford in the upper medium segment. The cuts would reduce capacity at Genk to 300,000 units on two shifts from 450,000 units on three shifts.

Lewis Booth, new Ford of Europe president and COO, said poor market conditions contributed to the decision to cancel tooling to build the Focus at Genk.

"The automotive market has deteriorated dramatically since a year ago," he said. But Ford could still meet its future needs because flexible manufacturing has improved efficiency of existing plants 15%, he said. Booth doesn't see a significant recovery for at least a year.

With the withdrawal of the Focus from Genk, Ford has now cut nearly half a million units from its western European passenger car capacity since discontinuing production of the Ford Escort at Halewood, UK in July 2000 and [Fiestas at] Dagenham, UK in early 2002, Automotive News Europe said.