A vehicle engine manufacturing venture of Mazda, Ford and Changan Automotive Group held a ground breaking ceremony on Tuesday for a new plant in Nanjing, eastern China, the Japanese automaker told Kyodo News.

The three-way venture Changan Ford Mazda Engine Co., in which Changan has a 50% stake and Ford and Mazda 25% each, plans to begin operation of the plant in the first half of 2007.

The plant is expected to produce two types of high-powered, fuel-efficient engines developed by Mazda and Ford, with an initial production capacity of 350,000 units a year, making it one of the largest engine manufacturers in China.

Earlier this year, the Chinese government granted approval for a plan by the three automakers to jointly build a vehicle assembly plant in Nanjing by the end of 2006, with an initial output capacity of 160,000 vehicles a year.

The engine plant and assembly plant are located in Jiangning Economic and Technological Development Zone, an industrial park in Nanjing, Kyodo News added.