Ford Motor Co. has finalized a deal with Russian automaker Sollers to build and sell cars and other vehicles in Russia, a key part of Ford's ambitious overseas growth plan.
Ford said Wednesday that the two companies have lined up $1.4 billion in long-term financing from Vnesheconombank, the Russian development bank, for the 50-50 joint venture called Ford Sollers. Other financial details were not disclosed.
The venture, which includes one Ford plant and two Sollers factories, is scheduled to start operating later this year.
Ford says the companies signed the deal Wednesday in Moscow with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The venture's operations will include a Ford factory near St. Petersburg that now builds the Focus compact and Mondeo midsize car. Also included are two Sollers factories in the Republic of Tatarstan.
The factories will make a variety of cars and commercial vehicles including the Ford Transit van, Ford said.
Sollers, the No. 2 auto producer in Russia, will support the joint venture with its manufacturing operations, knowledge of the Russian market, and experience with distribution and Russian parts supply companies, Ford said.
Besides vehicle manufacturing, the joint venture will build engines and other parts for Ford vehicles, and it will import and distribute Ford vehicles.
Russia is expected to be one of the world's fastest-growing auto markets and fits into Ford's plans to expand sales overseas. The Dearborn, Mich., company told investors on Tuesday that it plans to increase global sales to 8 million by 2015, up 50 percent from 5.3 million last year. Much of the sales growth was expected to be in Asia.
"Russia is set to become Europe's largest market for new vehicles by mid-decade and provides the Ford brand with a huge growth opportunity," Ford of Europe CEO Stephen Odell said in a statement.
Ford originally announced the deal in February and said the Russian government approved the venture on June 1. The deal comes after Italian automaker Fiat SpA backed out of a potential partnership with the same Russian company.
Ford began selling cars directly to Russians in 2002, and like many car makers is eager to expand business as demand improves.
While domestic auto companies in Russia have been struggling, the market itself has been gaining strength. Car sales in Russia rose by 30 percent last year to 1.9 million, according to the Moscow-based Association of European Businesses.