Ford Motor Company announced today it is building its first transmission plant in China to support its growth plan there, the carmaker said in a statement.

Ford's passenger vehicle joint venture, Changan Ford Mazda Automobile, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chongqing Municipal Government to building the plant, with an initial investment of $350 million, the statement added.

Located in Chongqing's New North Zone, the plant will be operated by Ford and its partner, Changan Ford Mazda Automobile Ltd, although it will produce transmissions only for Ford-branded vehicles.

Ford says that it will break ground on the new facility in July and that production will begin during the fourth quarter of 2013.

The plant is crucial for Ford to grow in China as it attempts to catch up to Detroit rival General Motors. Last year, Ford sold about one quarter the number of cars in China that GM did, but the Blue Oval says it has ambitious plans for the world's largest and fastest-growing market.

Ford also is building a $500 million engine plant in Chongqing that will open in two years.

Ford's sales in China rose 15 percent during the first four months of the year to 184,906 vehicles. But it was still a tiny fraction of the 6.53 million vehicles sold nationwide from January through April, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.