Source AP ©

Ford, Mazda begin production at joint venture engine plant in east China

Ford Motor Co., Japanese affiliate Mazda and China's Changan Automotive Group began full production Thursday at a new engine plant in eastern China's Nanjing aimed at supplying the companies' expansions in the fast growing market.

The US$312.5 million (EUR229 million) joint venture factory, Changan Ford Mazda Engine Co., has an annual capacity of 350,000 units and is one of China's biggest and most modern engine plants.

It will mainly supply Mazda Motor Corp.'s BZ series engines to Ford's joint venture with Changan in Nanjing, the companies said in a statement.

"This world-class facility and its state-of-the-art production technologies will push the industry benchmark higher in China," Mei-Wei Cheng, chairman of Ford Motor (China), said in the statement.

The plant includes three separate factories for casting, machining and assembly, the company said. Five engine components are being manufactured locally - cylinder blocks, cylinder heads, crankshafts, camshafts and connecting rods.

Minicar maker Changan Automotive Group, based in the southwestern city of Chongqing, is one of China's biggest domestic automakers.

Ford is a relative latecomer to China, compared with rivals General Motors and Volkswagen. But it is moving to catch up quickly.

Changan Ford Mazda sold a record 129,790 Ford cars in 2006, more than double the 61,022 sold in 2005, according to Ford's data.

"We are totally confident that the launch of full scale production at the CFME will inject new vitality into the Chinese auto market," said Yin Jiaxu, chairman of state-owned Changan Motor Corp.

Ford, Mazda and Changan are also launching a new auto plant this year that will produce 160,000 vehicles a year. Combined with a factory in Chongqing, their total annual capacity will rise to more than 400,000 units.

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