Ford's Russia venture plans r&d center

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Ford Sollers, a joint venture between Ford Motor and Russian carmaker Sollers, is creating a new research and development center in Russia to adapt Ford vehicles for the local market, the company said today.

Ford Sollers said the new r&d activities will be based in three locations: Moscow, Tatarstan and the St Petersburg region.

The Ford Sollers venture has production facilities near St Petersburg and in Tatarstan and produces the Ford Kuga medium SUV, Ford Explorer large SUV, compact Focus and mid-sized Mondeo models.

Additionally, it builds the Transit van and the S-Max, Galaxy and Tourneo Custom large minivans.

Western carmakers have invested heavily in production operations in Russia, betting that the market will grow as people look to update old models.

However, Russian car sales have fallen for six months in a row as Russia's $2 trillion economy has faltered. The Association of European Businesses (AEB) recently cut its sales forecast for the full year to 2.8 million vehicles, a fall of 5 percent.