Ford has raised its stake in Jiangling Motors to 31.5% and is looking to increase it to as much as 32% over the next year, both companies have said.

Ford has bought 13,002,396 of Jiangling's Hong Kong dollar-denominated B-shares so far this year, accounting for roughly 1.5% of the Chinese automaker's outstanding shares, Jiangling said in a stock exchange filing cited by Reuters, adding it was a sign of confidence in it by the US carmaker.

Ford said it may raise its stake to 32%, the limit currently allowed by the securities regulator. After the latest purchase Ford's stake is worth about $705m.

"We will continue to evaluate the market for JMC equity and may purchase the remaining portion of the two percentage points between now and 20 January, 2014," Ford said in a brief statement cited by the news agency.

During the first three months of this year, Jiangling, which makes JMC light trucks, SUVs and Ford's Transit van, sold 56,420 vehicles, up 7.1% from a year earlier, outperforming a 2.5% gain in China's overall commercial vehicle sales.