Following an investment of about $300m, Ford Brazil has started to produce an advanced new engine, the Sigma series with aluminium block, cylinder head and structural oil pan.

The automaker's engine and transmission manufacturing plant in Taubaté, 80 miles east of São Paulo City, now has capacity of 500,000 units yearly, plus that for 250,000 Zetec Rocam engines which remain in production.

The 1,596-cc Sigma engine launches a new generation of flexible-fuel engines here for Ford, initially to power the Focus. It pumps out 114bhp at 5,500rpm on ethanol and 107.8bhp at 6,200rpm on petrol; torque is 117.8lb ft and 111.4lb ft, respectively, both at 4,250rpm.

The Focus, built in Pacheco, in Greater Buenos Aires, in neighbouring Argentina, was launched in the Mercosur region 15 months ago. The new hatchback and saloon versions originally were offered only with the two-litre Duratec petrol engine and did not get off to a good start in the flexfuel dominated Brazilian market. A flexfuel version of the larger engine will arrive soon.

The previous generation Focus remained in production with the flexfuel Zetec Rocam motor until last month.

Ford did not disclose the countries the Sigma engine is to be exported to besides Argentina. But it is certain to add Mexico, within six months, to power the new Fiesta to be marketed in North America and other Americas countries.