As a key part of its European Transformation Strategy, new performance models are to help shape Ford of Europe's future. The new model programme, which leads the transformation strategy, has already seen the unveiling of an exciting new Ford Focus RS at the British International Motor Show at Birmingham and the announcement of new performance Ford derivatives bearing the ST name. As part of this strategy Ford Cougar sales will end in early 2001.

Ford of Europe Chairman, Nick Scheele, said: "The Ford Focus RS and ST models we outlined at the Birmingham Show are simply the first of our high performance cars currently under development, which will meet the needs and desires of those customers looking for sporty cars.

"We are entering one of the most exciting periods of Ford's existence in Europe and are making sweeping changes to our product line-up. The launch of the Ford Focus RS begins an exciting new chapter in Ford's performance vehicle portfolio and is a key part of our European sales strategy."

It is as part of this strategy that European sales of the Ford Cougar will end early in 2001, as the company commits to the heaviest-ever investment in new models for Europe. Ford plans some 45 new product actions over the next five years, among which will be the performance models, and many of which will be segment-busting and breakthrough. Continued. David Thursfield, Ford of Europe President, added: "It was a tough decision to lose the Ford Cougar but, despite being a valued image product, it just did not fit with our new product strategy. Vehicles like the all-new Mondeo, the Ford Focus RS and ST models and the new Ford Transit, are setting the stage for Ford of Europe's product-led recovery.

The Ford Cougar was launched in the UK in November 1998; to date, more than 12,000 Cougars have been sold in the UK since its launch, with more than 34,000 having been sold across Europe.