The Ford Focus C-car and Explorer SUV turn in their best April sales performances in years, but fall short of benchmarks set for the month by earlier models.

Focus sales last month grew 26.6%, compared with year-ago, to 20,529 units. The last time the car surpassed the 20,000-unit mark in April was in 2008, when deliveries totaled 23,850, according to WardsAuto data.

Ken Czubay, Ford vice president-U.S. marketing, says the auto maker is ramping up second-quarter production of the Focus at the Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne, MI.

Focus inventories “will reach a natural water level, and we will produce to meet demand,” he says in a conference call with analysts and journalists. “Right now, consumers are in love with Focus.”

Explorer sales last month climbed 25.8%, compared with prior-year, to 14,086 units. The last time it broke the 14,000-unit mark in April was in 2005 with 23,800 deliveries.

Czubay says Ford is increasing Explorer capacity in the second quarter by installing a third crew this month at the Chicago assembly plant, but declines to reveal how many additional units will be produced.

Ford’s total light-vehicle sales in April rose 7.0% on a daily-selling basis to 177,127 units. There were 24 sales days last month compared with 27 year-ago.

Several other nameplates turned in impressive results in the month compared with like-2011.

Sales of the Taurus fullsize sedan surged 29.5% to 7,211 units. Czubay says 34% of deliveries were the high-performance Taurus SHO version that is powered by a 3.5L direct-injected turbocharged EcoBoost engine.

Sales of the Fusion midsize sedan rose 16.0% to 20,529 units, while the Mustang posted a 7.2% uptick to 7,801. However, the outgoing Ford Escape cross/utility vehicle saw sales plummet 14.7% to 15,287.

Czubay says the current-generation Escape ended production at Ford’s Kansas City, MO, plant last month, while production of the all-new ’13 model ramps up at the Louisville, KY, facility.

Czubay declines to reveal volume expectations for the new Escape but says 50% of early orders are for the up-level trim model.

F-Series pickup deliveries jumped 19.5% to 44,922 units, and Czubay says the 3.5L EcoBoost engine remained a popular choice for buyers. “(The) F-150 with EcoBoost was 43% of retail sales in April.”

Through the first quarter, Ford sold more than 39,000 vehicles equipped with the 3.5L EcoBoost engine, representing a 285% increase from year-ago.

To keep up with demand, the auto maker today says it is adding a third shift at its Cleveland Engine Plant No.1. The facility, which also produces the 3.7L normally aspirated mill, is the only North American plant to build EcoBoost engines.

The 250 jobs being added to the factory will be filled by workers transferring from Cleveland Engine Plant No.2, which is scheduled to end production later this week. The facility built the aging 3.0L V-6, which has been phased out by Ford.

bpope@wardsauto.com