August 27, 2012 - 16:54 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - 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, The Associated Press reported.
Ford CEO Alan Mulally attended a groundbreaking ceremony Monday, Aug 27, for the new $600 million assembly plant in the southwestern city of Chongqing. It will have the capacity to make 250,000 vehicles per year when it's 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 hasn't 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 here by 2015, including the EcoSport and Kuga small SUVs, which will be made at the new Focus plant in the Chongqing complex starting next year.
China's auto market last year overtook the U.S. 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.
Sales are expected to grow in the coming years as more rural Chinese buy cars for the first time. Even with 30 million cars on the road, China still has just 28 vehicles for every 1,000 people, far below the U.S. level of 800. Some 80 percent of purchases are by first-time buyers.