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Author`s name Alex Naumov

Ford closes plants in America mulling new opportunities in China

Ford Motor Co, which is selling off parts of its automotive empire and closing plants in North America, is mulling a new car plant in China to meet growing demand, state media said Tuesday.

"We are gauging the need for further expansion of our manufacturing capacity," said Kenneth Hsu, spokesman for Ford's China operations, according to the China Daily.

"Local governments are keen to have a new plant from Ford in their regions."

He said the US car maker planned to reach a final decision by early next year, without elaborating.

The plant will be jointly built by the US auto giant with its Japanese unit Mazda Motor Co, which is 15 percent owned by Ford, and local partner Chang'an Motor Corp, the report said.

Chang'an Ford Mazda Automobile Co, in which Chang'an holds a 50 percent stake, Ford 35 percent and Mazda 15 percent, now has two factories in the southwestern city of Chongqing and Nanjing in the east, the AFP reports.

A production version of Ford's Verve sedan concept will be built in Nanjing by the end of 2008, according to automotive industry portal, which cites a report carried by The Associated Press.

The Verve sedan concept debuted at the Guangzhou motor show in November. The production version, meanwhile, is scheduled to go on sale in the domestic market early in 2009, according to Phil Spender, chief operating officer of Ford China.

Both the four-door sedan and the three-door Verve hatchback concept, the latter unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show in September, preview the replacement model for the current Fiesta. Ford is yet to confirm the production car's model name, with some sources suggesting Verve may be used.

"The company's plant in Nanjing is expected to produce 50,000-80,000 vehicles next year. When Verve starts production in 2009, the Nanjing plant will reach its peak production capacity of 160,000 a year," the publication quotes the president of Changan Ford Mazda Jeffrey Shen, as saying.

Source: agencies