Ford said on Tuesday it would boost North American production of the Focus by almost 30% in 2008 to keep pace with strong demand for the newly redesigned small car.

That Focus is based on the first-generation model and is quite different from the second generation models made by Ford if Europe.

The latest North American model began rolling off the assembly line at the automaker's Wayne (Michigan) stamping and assembly plant in late 2007.

In the first three months of 2008, Ford sold 49,070 Focus units - up 23% year on year. Reflecting a new emphasis at the automaker, retail sales were up 35%, while fleet sales declined slightly. The model now claims 7.6% of the US small car market, 1.2 percentage points better than a year ago.

Based on this demand, Ford is increasing production to build a total of 245,000 units in 2008, up from 191,000 in 2007.

The production plan means the plant's 2,800 employees will work some overtime and Saturday shifts for the rest of the year.

Ford spent $130m at Wayne to build the new Focus, installing new tooling and equipment, body shop upgrades and a new onsite "rough road" test track.

JD Power data shows that 30% of 2008 Focus buyers are 16 to 35 years old, up from 26% of 2007 model buyers.

Wayne stamping and assembly opened in 1952.