Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) opened its fourth automobile assembly plant Friday in China, as it seeks to expand its presence in the country. The carmaker also aims to double the number of dealerships it has in China by 2015.
The $490 million factory in Chongqing will initially produce the latest Ford Focus, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The move will expand Ford's annual production by 150,000 cars, increasing the output of its Changan Ford Mazda Automobile joint venture to 600,000 cars per year. Ford's global production in C-segment vehicles, which include the Focus, will rise to two million.
Ford plans to introduce 15 vehicles to China by 2015, hoping to capitalize on the country's growing middle class. The Chongqing plant will become the company's second-largest production center after its headquarters in Michigan.
But it faces strong local competition from rivals General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) and Volkswagen AG (ETR:VOW).
Ford sold 519,390 vehicles in China in 2011, up 7 percent from the prior year. Volkswagen's 2011 China sales were up 18 percent to 2.26 million and GM's sales were up 8.3 percent to 2.55 million.
Shares of Ford were down 17 cents to $12.23 at Friday's market close.