April 20 (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co., the fastest-growing major foreign automaker in China, will unveil a prototype of a seven-seater off-road SUV that will preview a model sold for the first time with Jiangling Motors Co.
The midsize Ford Everest concept, which will be shown a the Beijing auto show and was created by the automaker’s design team in Australia, will be produced for the Chinese market by Ford’s JMC joint venture and distributed through JMC’s Ford-brand network of dealers, according to a statement by the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker. Ford currently makes its SUVs in China with Chongqing Changan Automobile Co.
Ford has pulled within striking distance of Nissan Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. in China, driven by demand for its sport utility vehicles and the Focus car. After a late entry, Ford is on pace to trail only General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG in the world’s largest auto market, as the U.S. automaker expands its dealer network, builds new factories and introduces the Lincoln luxury brand this year.
Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally has pushed Ford, which long relied on demand from the U.S. and Europe, to expand in Asia after joining from Boeing Co. in 2006. He came to Ford with relevant experience on his resume: as a Boeing executive in the 1970s, Mulally worked on the opening of China’s market to western aircraft and helped set up its air-traffic control system.
Ford delivered 271,321 vehicles in China during the first quarter of this year, the carmaker said earlier this month, closing in on Nissan and Hyundai. Ford passed Toyota Motor Corp. for the first time last year to become No. 5 among foreign automakers.
The company has said a new assembly plant and a transmission factory will begin production in China this year. Two more plants are set to open in 2015 in what Ford has called its biggest manufacturing expansion in half a century.
In addition to the Focus, the best-selling foreign car in China last year, Ford has drawn buyers for locally manufactured models such as the Kuga and EcoSport utility vehicles and the Mondeo, which sells in the U.S. market as the Fusion.
Ford will unveil the Ford Escort, its latest production vehicle for China, at the Beijing auto show that opens to the public this week.
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