Ford said it would launch 17 new or refreshed Ford and Lincoln vehicles in the next 24 months to accelerate growth in the Middle East and Africa - including the Fusion sedan and the EcoSport small SUV launched at the 2013 Dubai show.

Stephen Odell, Ford president for the region, said: "Ford and Lincoln sales have grown 60% in the Middle East over the past four years, and we expect total industry sales in the combined Middle East and Africa region to increase nearly 40% to around 5.5m units by 2020."

Ford is combining the four regions of North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa and the Middle East into a single business unit. From 1 January 2014, all sales, share and financial reporting will be consolidated for the 47 Ford markets throughout the Middle East and Africa. The new Ford Middle East and Africa operation - Ford's fifth global business unit - will be headquartered in Dubai.

"The Middle East and Africa region is comprised of very diverse markets with different political, cultural and economic environments," Odell said. "Building a robust and profitable operation in this region requires a dedicated focus and clear understanding of how to support the unique conditions and customer needs in these markets."

Middle East and Africa will be managed in two sub-regions - South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East and North Africa. While regional operations will be headquartered in Dubai, Ford will maintain regional offices in both South Africa and Dubai.

Heading the new region is Jim Benintende, a 36-year Ford veteran who will oversee operations in all 47 markets. Benintende has significant experience in the region, most recently as director, Ford Export Operations and Global Growth Initiatives. He also previously served in the Ford Middle East and North Africa region in various roles from 1994-2006.

Ford has more than 60 years of presence in the region. The company has increased its sales for the Ford and Lincoln brands in the region by nearly 60% during the past four years.

In the first three quarters of 2013, Ford Middle East has already recorded strong sales with a nearly 20% increase compared to the same period in 2012.