EcoSport will be followed into Russian build by the Fiesta next year. Focus and Mondeo are built at a plant in St Petersburg

EcoSport will be followed into Russian build by the Fiesta next year. Focus and Mondeo are built at a plant in St Petersburg

Ford Sollers, a joint venture between Ford and JSC Sollers in Russia, has started production of the EcoSport compact SUV at its modernised plant at Naberezhnie Chelny in the Republic of Tatarstan.

The plant, the JV's second vehicle assembly plant in Tatarstan and third in Russia, will have a total annual production capacity of up to 115,000 vehicles and employ 1,500 people.

The EcoSport is the first vehicle to be built in the Naberezhnie Chelny plant and is fully built there. Next year, the five-door Fiesta also goes into production at the plant for sale in Russia.

"We’re on track with our ambitious Ford Sollers business plan," said Adil Shirinov, executive director and chief operating officer.

"We are committed to increasing our local content level in Russia. From the very start of production of the EcoSport we are sourcing about 30 components from local suppliers. In addition, we’re already preparing for the launch of the Fiesta next year. This means that in 2015, Ford Sollers will be building 11 Ford vehicles in Russia."

The JV now builds Ford vehicles in three assembly plants in Russia, with two – Elabuga and Naberezhnie Chelny in Tatarstan – and a third at Vsevolozhsk near St. Petersburg. The vehicles include a full range of SUVs – the full-size Explorer and Edge, mid-size Kuga, and sub-compact EcoSport – and light commercial vehicles including the newly redesigned Transit family, plus the Focus and Mondeo cars.

In August, Ford Sollers announced that in the following 14 months it would launch six new vehicles, including three in new market segments for the Ford brand in Russia. The JV also will start to build engines at its Elabuga plant in Tatarstan in 2015.

Russian EcoSport

The JV's engineers used their understanding of the Russian market to adjust EcoSport specification to meet the requirements of local customers. It has been tested for corrosion and durability, and is fully adapted for Russian cold winter conditions.

The Russian EcoSport offers front- and all-wheel drive options, and comes with 1.6-or two-litre petrol engines paired with a five- or six-speed manual transmissions or the Powershift six-speed automatic.

Fiesta

The Fiesta will be an important model for Ford as it looks to replace sales lost by falling demand for the Focus in the depressed market. Russian car sales have fallen following the introduction of western sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine and falling oil prices which have hit the economy.

Sales in the first 10 months fell 13% to around 2m according to the Association of European Businesses (AEB).

Ford's volume in that period fell 41% to 50,226 vehicles with Focus sales sliding almost 60% to 22,526 units because customers have started to downsize.