Ford Motor Co is building a sixth plant in China as part of an effort to increase its sales in the world’s largest auto market.
Ford CEO Alan Mulally attended a ceremony yesterday for the new US$600 million assembly plant in the southwestern city of Chongqing. It will have the capacity to make 250,000 vehicles per year when it is finished in late 2014.
The plant is Ford’s third in Chongqing, including one that began producing the Ford Focus in February. Ford plans to double its production capacity in China to 1.2 million vehicles by 2015, making this the company’s most rapid expansion in 50 years.
Ford has not said which vehicles will be made at the new plant, but it will be equipped to make seven different models.
Ford is planning to introduce 15 new vehicles in China by 2015, including the EcoSport and Kuga small SUVs, which will be made at the new Focus plant in the Chong- qing complex starting next year.
China’s auto market last year overtook the US as the world’s largest, with sales up 32 percent to more than 18 million vehicles. The pace has slowed this year, to an increase of just 2.9 percent in the first six months, but the Chinese market is still expected to be the largest in the world.
Ford, which sells seven models in China, is racing to catch up to rivals like General Motors Co.
Ford currently controls about 3 percent of the Chinese market and sells only Ford-branded cars.
GM, by contrast, sells 30 different vehicles under six brands in China. GM’s Chinese market share has not been as low as Ford’s share since 1998. Last year, GM controlled 14 percent of the Chinese market.
Also yesterday, Ford confirmed that a plan to drop Mazda from the joint-venture partnership won regulatory approval from China’s National Development and Reform Commission. The plan must still be approved by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
Ford wants to change the joint-venture structure so that it has a 50 percent share with Chinese automaker Changan Automotive Group (長安汽車), versus the 35 percent share it now has with Mazda as a partner.