The ten-millionth car has come off the line at Ford's Saarlouis plant in Germany - a blue, 1.6 litre Focus wagon.

The automaker has been producing vehicles in the German state of Saarland for the last 35 years and Saarlouis is Ford of Europe's lead facility for Focus production, which began on a three-shift basis in August 1998. Production of the redesigned model line was launched last October.

Before the Focus, Saarlouis produced over 6.5 million Escorts between 1970 and 1998 and the Capri, Fiesta and Orion (Escort sedan) have at times been made at Saarlouis.

The plant is one of Ford's most efficient in Europe, operating at 100% capacity. Producing vehicles on three shifts at a rate of 1,810 a day, there were 370,801 vehicles made in Saarlouis last year alone - 143,365 of them were Focus C-Max minivan.

Of the vehicles produced at Saarlouis, 77% are shipped to more than 80 countries, among them Angola, Australia, Jamaica, Japan, Tahiti, Taiwan and New Zealand. But the largest export markets are Great Britain, Italy and France.

Saarlouis employs 6,800 people directly. There are an additional 1,800 workers at suppliers in the adjacent industrial park, making the combined complex Saarland's biggest employer. Skilled labour makes up more than 60% of the workforce.

Because of its role as the lead Focus plant, Saarlouis is also home to the vehicle's launch team - a group of around 250 engineers and specialists responsible for planning and designing all aspects of production long before the first vehicles come off the line. In the Saarlouis pilot plant, responsible for pre-series production, all of Ford's C-car models are readied for series manufacture.

Ford has invested approximately €3 billion to expand and modernize Saarlouis since 1966. The plant and related investments over the years have created an estimated 25,000 new jobs in the surrounding region in retail, trade and supplier sectors.

Between 2002 and 2004, in the lead-up to the launch of the new Focus and C-Max, Ford invested about €746 million in the Saarlouis facility.