PARIS – Ford of Europe will build its first compact cross/utility vehicle, inspired by a Focus-based concept unveiled here today at the Paris auto show, late next year or in early 2008.

John Fleming, Ford of Europe president, unveils the Iosis X, which borrows from the “kinetic” styling cues that form the foundation of the auto maker’s European design direction.

This sleek, energetic theme made its debut at last year’s Frankfurt auto show when Ford took the wraps off Iosis, progenitor of the redesigned Ford Mondeo sedan that bows in first-quarter 2007.

The production-model Mondeo also makes its debut here, along with the production Ford Focus cabriolet and a facelifted Ford Ranger sport pickup.

The production version of the Iosis X will be built on Ford’s C1 architecture, Fleming tells Ward’s. Developed by Ford, Volvo Car Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp., the front- /all-wheel-drive architecture supports the European-market Ford Focus, as well as the Mazda3 and Volvo S40 and V50 small cars.

Fleming says the CUV will share a home with the Focus, but he declines to identify which plant or plants. Ford builds the Focus at assembly sites in Saarlouis, Germany; Valencia, Spain; and St. Petersburg, Russia.

Ford is pulling the trigger on a compact utility for Europe to fill a void in the market. That’s a luxury afforded by the auto maker’s commitment to flexible manufacturing.

“The market is fragmenting,” Fleming says.

And while he is confident Ford’s system can keep pace with rapidly changing consumer demands, Fleming is concerned about suppliers. Most are unable to keep up with shortened product development times and lag behind OEMs by about six months.

But they are improving, he adds.

Asked about anticipated volumes for the new CUV, Fleming says: “It’s not a huge segment.”

emayne@wardsauto.com