Ford India has shipped the first batch of components to Ford 's passenger car joint venture in China, making it the first Indian carmaker to export cars or components to China, Reuters reported.

The local operation is supplying parts for a clone of the Indian-built Ikon sedan to be launched in China, Ford India managing director David Friedman told Reuters.

Ford India began building the Ikon – a saloon based on the previous-generation European Fiesta hatchback in 1999.

"We will be the sole supplier of these parts to the China plant as these are parts that we already produce here (in India) for the Ikon, that China will be launching next year," Friedman added, according to Reuters.

Reuters said Ford would launch the Ikon derivative in China around April 2003 but has yet to announce the name of the Chinese version.

The car would be powered by a 1.0 or 1.5 litre engine and cost about 100,000 yuan ($US12,136), Reuters said, adding that Indian Ikons have either a 1.3 or 1.6 litre petrol engine or a 1.8 litre diesel engine.

Ford has so far invested $49 million in its China car plant in the western city of Chongqing, an equal joint venture with the Chang'An Auto Group, and the plant can make up to 50,000 cars a year, Reuters said.

Ford India will export 169 parts such as steering columns and chassis components for the Chinese Ikon variant from its 17-billion-rupee ($349 million) Indian car plant, with exports per car totalling about $400 to $500, Friedman told Reuters.

While the first shipment is meant for a batch of pilot cars, exports are expected to increase gradually to 500 million rupees in 2003, he added, according to Reuters.

Friedman told Reuters that Ford intends to keep pushing exports of the Ikon in kit form to Mexico, Brazil and South Africa and expects to earn more than two billion rupees from all exports in 2003.

Ford already has a 60% share of Indian car exports, in 2001 sold twice as many Ikons overseas -- in kit form -- as the 15,131 cars it sold in India, Reuters added.

The company aims to increase total sales, including exports, by about 16 percent to 50,000 cars in 2002, Ford India vice president Vinay Piparsania told Reuters.
According to Reuters, Piparsania added that Ford expected local car sales to grow by about eight to 10% in 2002 if the Indian car market maintained recent growth.