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Ford Motor Co. is opening its first vehicle testing facility in China, the company announced Friday.

The new test center in Nanjing, China, where Ford already runs a research and engineering center, is the automaker’s first in the world’s largest auto market. The Nanjing Test Center and accompanying MakeSpace creative hub represent $100 million of the company’s roughly $200 million investment in Nanjing.

The opening of the test center comes as Ford and other automakers scramble to expand in the rapidly growing Chinese auto market. The Dearborn-based automaker is also partnering with Chinese electric-vehicle giant Anhui Zotye Automobile Co. in a $756 million joint venture to sell all-electric vehicles there.

The roughly 160-acre proving ground in Nanjing will allow Ford to more quickly develop cars for the Chinese market. It features 80 different types of road surfaces conditions, a nearly two-mile-long test track and an emissions testing facility.

The Nanjing Test Center will foster the development of next-generation vehicles for the Chinese market, as well as well the certification of imported vehicles like the Explorer and Mustang. Ford in 2016 sold a record 1.27 million vehicles in China. Over the next three years, the company plans to export nearly $10 billion in product from North America to China.

“Nobody knows the needs of Chinese drivers better than our local engineers,” Trevor Worthington, Ford’s vice president of Asia Pacific product development said in a statement. “The NTC will now allow us to test their designs quickly and easily, reducing time-to-market for future Ford products.”

NNaughton@detroitnews.com

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