Ford's new-generation Focus may be the last of four cars built on Ford's C1 platform to make its debut, but it could be the most important if it maintains the momentum generated by the first-generation Focus, and could improve Ford of Europe's chances of regaining profitability, a report said.

"Focus is our highest-volume car line in Europe, so it's very important we get it right and achieve sales success," Lewis Booth, Ford of Europe chairman, told Automotive News Europe (ANE).

The trade paper noted that the original Focus was such a success six years ago, Ford decided to share its next-generation platform with Mazda and Volvo - the C1 Global Shared Technologies was an ambitious product development programme, with a global target of 1.5 million units a year.

Since 1998, the Focus has exceeded Ford's sales expectations in Europe and carried Ford of Europe when the later Fusion (a high-riding Fiesta derivative also made and sold in South America) and larger Mondeo missed company sales forecasts, the report added.

"Ford's market share, which has been sliding basically would have gone into an almost catastrophic slide if Focus hadn't been as successful as it was through the mid-part of its cycle," analyst Nigel Griffiths of Global Insight in London told ANE.

The paper said Ford is trying to recover lost market share - in 1991 it sold 1.57 million cars in Europe for an 11.8% slice of the cake but last year sold 1.2 million units for just 8.6%.

Because Ford used the C1 programme for more models, it could re-engineer more, ANE argued, noting that the Focus is 25mm longer and has a 40mm wider track.

"Why change a platform that was class leading?" Griffiths asked Automotive News Europe. "They needed the flexibility to respond to market trends toward wider cars, taller cars, sport-utilities and other niche vehicles."

Ford, which debuted new four-door sedan and five-door wagon derivatives of the Focus at the Paris motor show on Thursday, is also clearly eyeing the growing niche market in Europe for so-called coupe-cabriolets with folding steel or glass roofs -  despite their poor climates, Germany and the UK are the current 'hot' spots for this type of car.

Ford's Focus-based 'concept' Vignale Coupe, also unveiled at Paris, looks so production-ready, the Blue Oval will surely not miss any chance to build it.