It’s perhaps no coincidence but, on the day Nissan Motor announced the construction start of a two-model assembly plant nearby, Ford Europe announced an expansion of its plant in St Petersburg, Russia.

Ford said the annual production capacity of the plant – originally built to make 25,000 units a year – is targeted to rise to 125,000 in 2009 from the current level of 72,000 units. Additional capacity would include 25,000 Mondeo units (from late 2008, pending government approvals, and 28,000 Focus models).

The capacity increase would represent an incremental investment of more than $US100m, lifting Ford’s overall St. Petersburg spend to over $330m.

Ford was the first foreign automaker to open its own assembly plant in Russia and is being joined in the Leningrad region by Toyota, GM, Suzuki and Nissan in what has been dubbed the ‘Detroit of Russia’.

The Ford brand was the leading Russian import brand and the (European-design) Focus has been the best-selling car among non-Russian brands for four consecutive years.

“The Russian car market has experienced tremendous growth over the last several years,” said Ford of Europe president and CEO John Fleming. “We see consumer demand continuing to rise.”

The St. Petersburg plant, which employs 2,200, currently makes the Focus in all four body styles: three- and five-door hatchbacks, four-door sedan and five-door wagon. The plant started production in July 2002.
In the first half of this year, Ford sales in Russia were 81,782 units, 122% up year on year.

Ford also sells the imported Fusion, Fiesta, C-Max, Mondeo; S-Max, Galaxy; Ranger, Maverick and Explorer passenger models plus and Transit and Transit Connect commercial vehicles there.