Ford on Tuesday said it would begin selling its first passenger car in China by the end of March, entering a booming market already crowded with big foreign rivals, Associated Press (AP) reported.

The first four-door Fiesta sedan would roll off the assembly line Saturday in a ceremony to be attended by top Ford executives, the report said.

AP said the car is similar to a vehicle of the same name already sold in Europe, but modified for the China market with automatic transmission and a stronger suspension for rougher roads.

Ford officials in Beijing refused to disclose the car’s price until the unveiling Saturday but a spokeswoman told AP it would be targeted at families in China’s increasingly wealthy urban areas.

AP said that Ford plans to build up to 50,000 vehicles a year at the new $US98 million factory in the central city of Chongqing, where ownership is split 50-50 with Chinese partner Changan Automobile as part of a joint venture launched two years ago. Since 1997, Ford has built commercial vans in another joint venture, AP added.

Ford is joining China’s passenger car market at a time when other foreign automakers are also upping their stake in a country that’s one of the global economy’s few bright spots, AP noted.