Ford has opened its sixth assembly plant in China where it will build a version of the Edge mid-size crossover designed exclusively for the Chinese domestic market.
The Edge will be the first vehicle produced at the $760 million plant that was designed with the flexibility to make up to six different vehicle models with capacity for an additional 250,000 vehicles a year.
Ford CEO Mark Fields is in Hangzhou to mark the start of production of the newest plant for joint venture Changan Ford, which now has the capacity to build 1.4 million vehicles a year in China.
The new Hangzhou plant will build a three-row version of the Edge that is slightly longer and taller than the two-row model that is built in Oakville, Ontario, for export to the rest of the world.
“This world-class facility will help us accelerate the delivery of high-quality, innovative products to our customers in China,” said Fields in a release.
Ford was a latecomer to China, but has been aggressively adding plants and has promised 15 new vehicles for the market by 2015, including the Mustang. Sales have grown steadily — up 19 percent last year — and the additional capacity makes it possible to overtake Hyundai as the No. 4 foreign automaker in the country. There is still a long way to go to reach the volume of leaders Volkswagen and General Motors. Nissan is No. 3.
Ford’s global expansion is also centered on India, where Fields is expected to visit later this week.
In January, US Secretary of State John Kerry toured Ford’s $1 billion plant in Sanand, India, which will double the automaker’s output in the country. The plant was scheduled to start building small vehicles by the end of March for sale in India as well as export to Africa and Eastern Europe.
Ford wants to increase global sales by 52 percent, from 6.2 million in 2013 to 9.4 million vehicles per year, by 2020. Of that, only 3.5 million will come from North America, demonstrating the growing reliance on global markets.