Ford launched a surprise new variant of its just-redesigned Focus model line - a coupe-cabriolet dubbed the 'Focus Vignale Concept' - at the Paris motor show on Thursday.

Like most so-called 'concepts' unveiled with much fanfare at international motor shows these days, this one looks to be production-ready. Launching it on French territory, where Renault's similarly-sized Megane and Peugeot's 307 coupe-cabriolets already do battle, suggest that the new Ford will be in showrooms across Europe - and much further afield - before too long.

After all, the so-called Focus sedan 'concept', which debuted at the Beijing motor show only a few months ago, is now in production and also made its debut in Paris, alongside an equally attractive station wagon version.

With its usual wordy press bumpf, Ford maintains the Focus Vignale Concept "is a one-off design study that explores the potential for future Focus derivatives".

Yeah, right.

Coupe-cabriolets like Peugeot's pioneering 206 are selling their little socks off across Europe, and several direct rivals are already proving there is a market one size up (the Megane and 307 mentioned above; the upcoming VW Golf coupe-cabriolet). Ford has just invested squillions in redesigning the rest of the new Focus range to provide ready-made drivetrains, interiors and platform componentry. Suppliers like Heuliez and Bertone are willing and able to subcontract the folding tin-tops and/or assemble the whole car, sharing the investment risk. As our American readers might say: "Puh-leeze!"

"We believe the dynamic design of the new Ford Focus offers tremendous promise from which we can develop additional models that truly inspire desire in our customers," purrs Derrick Kuzak, Ford's European vice president for product development, in a statement. "The Ford Focus Vignale Concept clearly demonstrates the intriguing possibilities to expand the all-new Focus family into specific niches."

The, ahem, 'concept' is said to take its inspiration and name from the renowned Italian designer, Alfredo Vignale (1913-1969), who has an historical connection with Ford's European design heritage.

His Carrozzeria Vignale company produced many stylish, coach-built sports cars during the 1950s and 1960s and joined Ford Motor Company's De Tomaso Automobili in 1969.

And has now disappeared without trace, much like fellow Italian carrozzeria Ghia, which is today no more than a 50p badge on top-whack Mondeos and the like.

Like the likely rivals already on sale, the Focus coupe-cab has an electrically operated metal roof that folds into the boot. Pushbuttons activate the door catches electronically.

"Our approach was that this car should be beautiful as a sporty coupé first, because here in many areas of Europe customers drive these cars with the top up more than with the top down," a Ford stylist said.

Ford of Europe's Design Group put together a special team at its Dunton, England, design studio to develop the concept.

"Its four-season character was created in record time to demonstrate the potential we have in the new Ford Focus range to design future niche derivatives," said design director Chris Bird.

"We are looking forward to hearing the reaction to the car."

Right, Chris, it looks great, and will doubtless be as nice to drive and as reliable as a Focus hatchback. So just cut the palaver and tell us the specifications, how much, and when you're putting it on sale, huh?

Graeme Roberts

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