Changan Automobile Group, the third largest Chinese automaker and Ford's local joint venture partner, has dialled back plans to set up a Mexican plant but remains committed to breaking into the North American market.

"We are still doing market research there. There won't be any big investment for the time being," Zhu Huarong, head of Changan's research and development division, told Reuters.

"We have slowed down the pace of the plant a bit because of the financial crisis, but our plan is unchanged," Zhu added.

The company said the Mexico plan would secure a foothold to North America.

Changan signed a deal last year to set up in Mexico.

Changan, which currently makes small cars, such as Yuexiang and BenBen, is also working hard to tap the upper end of the market, Zhu told the news agency.

"We have been investing heavily in research and development. We will not stay at the lower end forever. If fact, you can see our first self-made saloon within months," he said, declining to provide further details.

When asked why Changan did not acquire western brands to raise its own profile like some of its peers, Zhu said: "We had some initial contacts with some foreign brands but decided to give up in the end."

"After all, it's still a foreign brand even after you take it over. We want to make expensive cars on our own."