A Ford Motor Co. joint venture in China will spend $350 million to build the company's first transmission plant in the world's largest auto market.
The company said Thursday that the factory in Chongqing in southwest China will be able to build 400,000 six-speed automatic transmissions. It will make them for Changan Ford Mazda Automobile Limited, the Chinese joint venture.
Ford has a relatively small presence in fast-growing China but says the plant is part of its growth plans.
The company said construction will start in July and production will begin in late 2013.
Ford also is building a $500 million engine plant in Chongqing that will open in two years.
China's auto market last year overtook the U.S. as the world's largest. Sales rose 32 percent last year to over 18 million vehicles, but have slowed to single digit growth so far this year.
"Together with prior investments announced in the past few years, this new plant demonstrates Ford's unprecedented commitment to the China market," Joe Hinrichs, president of the company's Asia Pacific and Africa region, said in a statement. Ford plans to introduce 15 new vehicles to China by 2015, Hinrichs said.
Changan Ford Mazda makes the Mondeo midsize car, the Focus compact, Fiesta subcompact and S-Max small van for sale in China.
The Dearborn, Mich., automaker got a late start in China and is trying to catch up to its main U.S. rival, General Motors Co., which sells more vehicles in China than it does in the U.S.
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.
Ford's sales also are far behind GM, which sold a record 888,950 vehicles during the same period.
January-April sales in China rose 6 percent, slowing sharply from the double-digit growth seen in recent years, the Beijing-based association said.