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Ford plans Puma's extinction

Production of the Cologne-built Ford Puma will cease at the end of the year to make way for production of new Fiesta.

Availability of the sporty coupe will, however, continue for most of 2002 with the factory building cars for stock in anticipation of phasing out Puma production.

Ford has no immediate plans to replace the Puma, but will launch a series of variants to fill the gap it leaves, including the Fiesta MAV, three-door Fiesta and StreetKa.

The new Fiesta will be built at Cologne and Valencia, freeing its current home at Dagenham to become Ford's global diesel engine plant - as part of a programme designed to see the manufacturer break even this year and return to profitability in 2002.

The last Fiesta will roll off the Dagenham production line in February next year, and by 2004 one in four of all new Ford vehicles around the world will be powered by an engine sourced from Britain - either from Dagenham or Bridgend.

Ford's transformation is being product-led - 45 new models in the five years to 2004 - and that will see an increase in the pace of new launches and a greater depth and breadth to model ranges, according to Ford of Europe's vice-president of product development Martin Leach.

"Over the next five years we will be increasing the pace in bringing new technologies to market," said Mr Leach. "There will be new powertrains to expand ranges and there will be breakthrough products creating new segments not seen before. But with 45 new launches in five years it is really about trebling the pace of our product activity."

Since the five-year plan has been under way new models launched include front and rear- wheel drive Transit as well as more niche derivatives, the new Mondeo, Galaxy and Maverick and the launch of common rail diesel versions of the Focus.

Still to come - but already announced - are common rail diesel versions of the Mondeo, the new Explorer, a roadster based on the StreetKa and the return of Ford-badged performance cars with such models as the Focus RS, Focus ST and Mondeo ST.

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