Jiangling Motors Co. Group, Ford's China partner, plans to double its dealerships in Europe to 500 next year as it seeks to boost exports amid fierce competition, a Jiangling executive was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

Jiangling Motors Co. Group (JMCG), the state parent of Shenzhen-listed Jiangling Motors Co., in which Ford holds a 30% stake, is among a small club of ambitious Chinese auto makers hoping to make a name overseas, according to Reuters.

"We will keep up the momentum in developing markets in the coming years, but Europe will be our next major focus," Liang Bo, deputy general manager of Jiangling's exports arm, told the news agency.

JMCG has been selling its own sports utility vehicles (SUVs), as well as pickups and light trucks made by listed Jiangling in overseas developing markets, such as South America, Asia and the Middle East, for years, the report noted.

The group only started to enter the European market in 2005, when it shipped roughly 800 of its Landwind SUVs to European countries, mostly to the Netherlands.

"We've signed up roughly 200 dealerships there in countries like Germany, France and the Netherlands. We are working to boost that number to 400 or 500 next year," Liang said in an interview with Reuters.

Overseas sales could account for 20-30% of JMCG's overall annual sales as early as next year, Liang reportedly said. Currently, exports make up of one-tenth of its overall sales, which may jump 20% to 100,000 vehicles in 2006.

The report noted that JMCG's Landwind SUV failed a crash test by German auto club ADAC in 2005, even though it passed later tests. It has shipped more of its vehicles, including its X-Pedition SUV and Fashion MPV (multi-purpose vehicle), for comprehensive tests in Europe, Liang told Reuters.

If they pass the tests, the X-Pedition SUV and Fashion MPV would be rolled out in Europe next year - enabling the Chinese auto maker to increase sales there, Liang reportedly said.

His company, based in the southeast province of Jiangxi, currently has no plans to crack the U.S. market, he added, according to Reuters.