Volume production of the B-Max has begun at Ford’s new manufacturing facility in Craiova, Romania.

The B-Max is the first car to be built at Craiova. B-Max is a B-segment multi-activity vehicle and Romania will be the only source for the model.

Ford says that it has invested some USD650m in the facility as part of a total investment of USD875m which includes engine production.

The plant also builds Ford’s award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine and the company confirmed today that a second engine, a 1.5-litre petrol unit will go into volume production at Craiova early next year.

“Volume vehicle and engine production at Craiova brings a new level of sophisticated manufacturing to Eastern Europe,” said John Fleming, Ford’s executive vice president, global manufacturing. “Craiova is today one of the most competitive and modern production sites in Ford’s global manufacturing footprint and, indeed, in the global auto industry as a whole, with cutting-edge facilities like its class-leading paint shop.”

The B-Max enters one of Europe’s fastest growing vehicle segments, one that is forecast to grow by 17% by 2018. Since the first compact multi-activity vehicle appeared in 2000, it has already seen rapid growth – with five competitors in the segment by 2003 rising to 10 in 2008. By the end of this year 12 models are expected to be available.

“With many consumers in Europe facing financial pressures, the status symbol of owning the most expensive, biggest or fastest is taking a back seat to being a smart, savvy or sustainable consumer,” said Henry Mason of global trend experts trendwatching.com.