Ford to open $760M Chinese assembly plant

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. and its Chinese joint venture, Changan Ford, on Tuesday will mark the opening of a new assembly plant in Hangzhou, China, as the automaker continues to invest in that market.

The plant will build the new Ford Edge crossover for the Chinese market. The 2015 version of the crossover is the first to go global, and will be sold in China, Europe, Asia and the United States. The North American Edge is being made at Ford's Oakville Assembly Plant in Ontario.

The $760 million Chinese manufacturing facility will be able to produce 250,000 vehicles a year, and will eventually be able to accommodate six different models.

"This world-class facility will help us accelerate the delivery of high-quality, innovative products to our customers in China," Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO, said in a statement.

The automaker already has four assembly plants, one engine plant and one transmission plant in China.

The Hangzhou plant will bring Ford's annual Chinese capacity to 1.4 million vehicles — surpassing Hyundai Motor Co.'s 1.05 million units, according to data from the companies. That will place Ford behind Volkswagen AG, General Motors Co. and Nissan Motor Co. in sales among foreign carmakers in China.

The Dearborn automaker said its sales through February this year in China are up 14.6 percent to 191,983 vehicles. In recent years it has invested billions in manufacturing in China and has leapfrogged automakers like Toyota Motor Corp. in sales there. Last fall, Ford started selling its Lincoln luxury brand in China and says that three of its top 10 best selling Lincoln dealerships come from that country.

The Edge is one of 15 new vehicles Ford hopes to bring to China by 2015.

The 2015 version of the Edge includes a number of updates, including adaptive steering (which reduces how much the driver has to turn the steering wheel at slow speeds, making parking and other tight maneuvers easier), a 180-degree front camera with a washer, enhanced park-assist and side park sensors.

The vehicle has a third row of seats that was specifically designed for Chinese customers.

Ford aims to increase global sales by 45 to 55 percent by 2020.

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Bloomberg News contributed.