CHONGQING, China - Changan Automobile Group, Ford Motor Co.'s Chinese production partner, will launch a small economy car in September that it wants eventually to export to the United States.
"I can't say exactly when we will begin exporting -- next year or the year after would be OK," says Changan spokesman Liu Yue.
Changan would join a small stampede of Chinese automakers with ambitions to sell cars in the United States.
They face huge obstacles, such as meeting strict safety and emissions requirements, establishing dealer networks in the United States and developing competitive products.
Changan is a substantial automaker in China, with global sales last year of 450,572. It specializes in commercial vehicles, mainly small vans.
The vehicle it will launch in September will be its first car.
The initial target customer will be people in China's smaller cities, says Changan Vice President Zou Wenchao, who also is executive vice president of Changan Ford Mazda Automobile Co.
"The government has really been emphasizing urbanization of China's countryside," Zou says. "Changan has researched that aspect, and the purchasing power of people in the smaller towns is rising."
Changan designed the car itself, with help from Changan's engineering and design centers in Italy and Germany, Zou says.
Changan is in the southwest China city of Chongqing. It exported 15,000 vehicles in 2005, mainly small vans. Most went to the Middle East.
Ford welcomes Changan's efforts to develop its own car, says Ford Motor (China) Ltd. spokesman Kenneth Hsu.
Says Hsu: "This is going to contribute to the future of Changan. A stronger partner always means better opportunities for our partnership."
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