Ford Motor Co.'s main Chinese car venture expects its sales to rise more than 20% in 2005, a senior executive reportedly said on Wednesday, outpacing the market but lagging some rivals.

"We'll see at least a 20% rise in sales this year," Zou Wenchao, executive vice president of Changan Ford, told Reuters.

Ford spokesman Kenneth Hsu told the news agency Ford sold 53,000 cars in 2004 from Changan Ford, its venture in the southwest of the country with local car maker Changan Automobile Co. Ltd.

Chinese retail sales by the automaker amounted to 33,621 vehicles from January to June, including a small number of imports as well as the joint venture's output, the report added, noting that Ford is a relative latecomer to the hotly competitive Chinese market, which is now led by Volkswagen and General Motors.

Reuters said GM, by contrast, sold almost 310,000 vehicles in China in the first half and expects to sell nearly 600,000 this year, up one-fifth on 2004.

The news agency added that Ford's 22% jump in first-half sales also pales in comparison to Asian car makers such as Nissan Motor and Hyundai, whose sales at least doubled in the first half. Both carmakers also expect their sales in China to rise more than 50% for the full year.