The Chinese central government has granted approval for a joint venture manufacturing facility by Ford, Mazda and Changan Automotive Group in the Jiangning Economic & Technological Development Zone (NJDZ) near Nanjing, in Jiangsu Province.

The new vehicle manufacturing facility will be the first in China for all three companies working together. The 190,000 square metre facility will have an initial manufacturing capacity of 160,000 units a year and could be expanded to as many as 200,000 units annually.

Highly flexible and capable of producing a number of different Ford and Mazda vehicles, the new plant will be fully integrated to support stamping, body assembly, paint, trim and final assembly.

The new plant is part of the $1 billion investment that Ford chairman and chief executive officer Bill Ford announced during his visit to China in October 2003. Mazda is expected to participate in the project by having an equity stake in Changan Ford.

"With Mazda joining us in this new project, we expand our ongoing cooperation that has us building vehicles together on four continents," Ford vice-president Mark Schulz said. "By using a combination of Mazda's manufacturing expertise and Changan's deep knowledge of China, all of us will benefit."

"Nanjing is an ideal location," said Changan Automotive Group president Yin Jiaxu. "Our operations with Ford in Chongqing are being expanded and production is going well. This new location and Mazda's participation will enable us to grow even faster and to serve the populous eastern provinces of China even better."

All three partners will cooperate to develop and operate the new plant. Ying Zhan Wang, former vice president technology of Changan Ford, is general manager of the new plant, putting to work his experience in Chongqing. Masahiro Araki, former production engineering division manager of Mazda Motor Corporation, is vice president of operations. Albert Li, former CFO of Ford Motor (China), is vice president of business operations. The plant will produce cars for both Mazda and Ford and model details will be announced later.