Ford believes it has made a big enough impact along in the metropolitan cities along the coast of China to concentrate on the untapped rural market.

“Our marketing people are telling us there’s demand for an affordable family saloon,” said European design boss Martin Smith. “We think the Focus will be very popular in the cities. We’ve done the coastal areas and we’re now looking to move inland.”

Ford believes its decision to make a concept - the Ka-sized Start - for the 2010 Beijing motor show demonstrates that it is serious about the Chinese market and has boosted its brand across the country.

Read more on the Ford Start concept

The company wants to use the global reach of the new C platform to provide the economies of scale to broaden its work in the developing markets. The platform currently has 85 per cent shared components across the world. The variation in features is mechanical and due almost entirely to local legislation, to fulfil US crash legislation and EU pedestrian impact regulations, for example.

Bosses insist there are still many ways to design out costs. “We’d never engineer out safety,” said Smith, “but you could give it single-piece headlights and tail lights, and reduce the glass panels in the side from three to two.”

The Chinese market has a reputation for being quite size-sensitive, so it’s thought that Ford has ruled out using the Fiesta platform due to its smaller proportions, despite its success with the Ford Figo, India’s 2011 Car of the Year, which is based on the previous model Fiesta with a new nose and tail.

First drive of the all-new Ford Focus

One option is make the car on the C1 platform, used by the Mk2 Focus. Ford’s Chongqing factory, a thousand miles west of Shanghai, has made more than 500,000 Focuses on this platform and could provide a suitable facility for the new ‘affordable’ saloon.

In Europe, Valencia-built Mk2 Focus hatchbacks will remain on sale for the rest of the year alongside the new Focus, until the new production reaches full volumes. This will also allow Ford to continue to offer hefty discounts on new cars by directing customers towards the single Mk2 ‘Sport’ edition rather than the new car, whose residuals they are working to improve.

Ed Keohane

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