Ford opened its third assembly plant in China on Friday, increasing the Detroit automaker’s manufacturing capacity in the country by a third and putting it on track to double the number of its dealerships there by 2015.
China is the world’s largest auto market. Ford’s new $490 million factory spans across 1 million square meters in the south-western city of Chongqing, and will increase the company’s passenger car capacity in the country by 600,000 vehicles annually, Fox Business reported.
“This new flexible plant will help give us the capacity to realize our aggressive growth plans for the world’s largest automotive market,” David Schoch, chairman of Ford China, said in a statement released by the company.
The factory’s production line will be able to manufacture six different vehicle types, Ford said, and the plant will focus on building the firm’s next-generation Ford Focus.
Expansion into China forms a key part of Chief Executive Alan Mulally’s efforts to boost annual global sales by 50 percent to 8 million vehicles by 2015, and have one third of Ford’s deliveries in Asia by 2020, according to Bloomberg.
The company aims to bring 15 new models to China by 2015. It says Chongqing will become Ford’s second-largest manufacturing center in the world in terms of production capacity once two additional factories currently under construction are completed next year.
Ford is a relative latecomer to the Chinese market, and has had to push hard to make up ground lost to strong competitors like General Motors and Volkswagen.
The firm’s president for Asia-Pacific and Africa, Joe Hinrichs, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview last week that a drought of fresh products in China over the last two years had limited Ford’s growth.
The company sold 519,390 vehicles there in 2011, 7 percent more than the year before. However, Volkswagen’s sales in China jumped 18 percent to 2.26 million vehicles, and General Motors’ rose 8.3 percent to 2.55 million.