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SHANGHAI, April 19 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co.'s (F.N) flagship China venture expects to sell 220,000-230,000 vehicles this year, an increase of as much as 77 percent, boosted by its popular mid-range Focus sedan, its chief said on Thursday.
Changan Ford Mazda, a three-way tie-up between Ford, Mazda Motor Corp. (7261.T) and Changan Automobile Co. Ltd. (000625.SZ), more than doubled its sales last year to 126,790 units, including Focus sales of 78,430. The model is a hit with China's young professionals.
"We could hardly keep up with demand for the Focus, and sales this year could be roughly 100,000 units," CEO Jeffrey Shen told Reuters on the sidelines of a briefing ahead of the April 22-28 Shanghai Auto Show.
Ford, the number-two U.S. automaker, is a relative latecomer to China's fiercely competitive market, currently dominated by General Motors Corp. (GM.N) and Volkswagen AG (VOWG.DE).
Ford sold a total of 166,722 vehicles in China in 2006, including imports, roughly a fifth of GM's sales of 876,747 units. Volkswagen's sales in China and Hong Kong reached 711,298 vehicles.
Raising its profile in the world's second-largest autos market, Ford has been ramping up capacity with Changan and Mazda. Ford owns a third of Japan's Mazda.
By end-2007, Ford's China capacity should hit 546,000 units, including 410,000 units at Changan Ford Mazda and 136,000 at a commercial vehicle tie-up with Jiangling Motor Co. (000550.SZ).
Ford also sells premium marques such as Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover in China, and last month rolled out S-MAX, a sport-activity vehicle aimed at China's increasingly affluent young professionals.
It is also gearing up to locally produce the third generation Mondeo sedan at a plant in southwest China.
GM, which last week launched Park Avenue, a flagship Buick model, expects to roll out another 10 new or revamped models this year, while Volkswagen aims to introduce at least a dozen new models by the end of the decade.
((Reporting by Fang Yan, editing by Ian Geoghegan; email@example.com; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org; +86 21 6875 2008)) Keywords: AUTOSHOW CHANGANFORDMAZDA/ . Keywords: AUTOSHOW CHANGANFORDMAZDA/
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