Ford’s new assembly plant in China will have an initial capacity of 160,000 vehicles a year, the automaker’s chief operating officer reportedly said.

Reuters noted that Ford has teamed up with its Japanese partner Mazda for a new factory in China and recently signed an investment agreement to buy land in the eastern city of Nanjing – the new venture is part of Ford’s $US1 billion expansion plan in China.

“We have been a late starter in China,” Jim Padilla reportedly told analysts at a conference in Dearborn, Michigan. “But we are moving and we are moving fast.”

Reuters said Ford, whose first Chinese car factory opened only last year, aims to more than triple output in China to 65,000 units this year.

It had less than 1% of the Chinese market at the end of 2003, with sales of 17,000 vehicles compared with leader Volkswagen’s one-third share and GM’s 19%.

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