Ford Motor Co. is increasing production of its Focus small car by nearly 30% to keep pace with strong customer demand.

Production of the new Focus, which is built at Ford’s Wayne, MI, stamping and assembly plant, will increase to 245,000 units for the year, up from 191,000 in 2007.

The accelerated build rate will result in overtime and Saturday shifts for Wayne’s 2,800 workers, Ford says.

Focus sales through March soared to 49,070 units, a 23% increase compared with year-ago, Ford says, noting Focus retail sales rose 35%, while fleet sales declined slightly.

Ford credits Sync, its in-vehicle, multi-media system, as the driving force behind the surge in Focus sales, noting the option is drawing younger buyers into the vehicle.

“Younger buyers are very interested in technology like Sync,” says Samuel De La Garza, Focus marketing manager. “In addition to strong sales, we’re seeing the average age of Focus customers coming down.”

A recent study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates found 32% of ’08 Focus buyers range in age from 16 to 35, compared with 28% of ’07 Focus buyers.