Ford Motor Co (F.N) announced on Thursday plans to build a new $490-million flexible assembly plant in China, its third in the country, increasing annual production capacity by one-third to meet growing demand.

The plant, in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing for Ford's China joint venture Changan Ford Mazda Automobile, is expected to be completed in 2012.

Ford, which plans to introduce four new vehicles to the Chinese market over the next three years, said it expected to begin production of the next generation Ford Focus at the plant in 2012.

The plant will be capable of producing a wide range of vehicles and the joint venture's annual production capacity will rise by 150,000 vehicles to about 600,000 when it is completed, Ford said.

Today's announcement reinforces our commitment to the further expansion of our China operations to meet the continued rise in demand from Chinese consumers for world-class Ford products and services, Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally said in a statement.

Ford brand sales by Changan Ford Mazda in China rose 111 percent to 21,127 vehicles in August from a year earlier. Through August, Ford brand sales were up 30 percent to 144,601 vehicles in 2009 from a year earlier.

Ford, the No. 2 U.S. automaker in terms of sales behind General Motors Co [GM.UL], produces the Focus, Mondeo and other sedan models in China in a tie-up with Chongqing Changan Automobile Co (000625.SZ) and Japan's Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T).

Ford plans to debut its next generation of the Focus at the North American International Auto Show in January. The new Focus is being built on a global platform to reduce costs.

Under its global strategy, Ford expects the platform used by the new Focus to underpin up to 10 models eventually. Ford expects global sales of vehicles built on that platform to exceed 2 million per year by 2012.

Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford also holds 30 percent of Jiangling Motors Corp (000550.SZ), which makes light trucks and vans, including Ford's Transit model. (Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)