Ford Motor Co. said on Tuesday it would boost output in Russia to 125,000 cars per year by 2009 from 72,000 as it seeks to satisfy booming demand in Europe's fastest growing major car market.
The U.S. auto maker will also launch production of its Mondeo saloon in a $100 million upgrade of its Russian factory, which already makes the popular Focus model.
Ford executives said they hoped to start building work next year to expand the plant, near Russia's second city of St Petersburg, to produce 25,000 Mondeos yearly and expand Focus output by 28,000 units.
Ford's car sales in Russia rose 122 percent in the first half of the year to 82,000 units, according to industry figures, and if that trend continues it could soon oust General Motors Corp. as the country's most popular foreign brand.
The Russian car market has experienced tremendous growth over the last several years, said Ford of Europe President and CEO John Fleming after meeting regional officials. We see consumer demand continuing to rise for stylish cars.
Ford moved early to set up production in Russia, which has offered tax breaks to foreign car makers. Like other new entrants, it has profited from the decline of market leader OAO AvtoVaz, which still makes clunky Soviet-era models.
Auto sales are booming thanks to Russia's economic boom and the growing availability of loan finance. PricewaterhouseCoopers has forecast that Russia will grow to become Europe's largest car market by 2011 with sales worth $96 billion.