ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday that it will invest $50 million in upgrading its Russian plant to start assembling its new Focus model in May amid booming demand for modern cars in the country.
Henrik Nensen, head of Ford in Russia, said in a news conference that the new model would be assembled on the Vsevolozhsk plant near Saint Petersburg.
"We will begin to produce the new-generation Focus model in Vsevolozhsk in May and will gradually start to replace the old model. Supplies to our dealers will begin in June," he said.
Demand for modern cars in Russia is booming thanks to five years of rapid economic growth, which has put new cars within the reach of a burgeoning middle class.
Ford was among the first companies to open a plant in Russia, and its surging sales have prompted other producers, such as Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG, to think about following suit.
In March, Ford said it would sell 30,000 cars in Russia this year, import models included, but the company's marketing and sales head in Russia, Sergei Bogdanov, said in the same news conference on Wednesday that Ford had revised the plan upward by a third.
He said Ford would produce 30,000 Focus cars in Russia, up from 16,000 last year, and import another 10,000 cars.
This will represent a 13 percent share of the market for foreign cars in Russia, imported or produced domestically, and the company plans to maintain this share in 2005, he said.
Ford has said it is aiming for 10 percent of the Russian car market, currently dominated by local Ladas, by 2010.