Manufacturing News

Ford, Zotye Auto look into forming joint venture to build EVs

Ford Motor Co. is exploring a proposal to set up a joint venture with Anhui Zotye Automobile Co. to build electric passenger vehicles in China under a new brand.

China, struggling with alarming air pollution in major cities, is aggressively promoting development of EVs and plug-in hybrids.

Daimler AG, Volkswagen AG, General Motors and others have disclosed plans to produce EVs in China, which wants electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to comprise at least 20 percent of the country's auto sales by 2025.

Ford, whose overall China sales are down 7 percent this year, said in a statement Tuesday that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Zotye Auto to create a new EV brand.

Each company will hold a 50-percent stake in the partnership, Ford said.

The U.S. automaker did not provide details of financial commitments nor say by when it will make a firm decision to form the joint venture.

Ford sees China as the world’s fastest growing market for EVs, and it forecasts annual EV sales will grow to six million vehicles by 2025, of which four million would be battery-electric.

The potential venture with Zotye Auto would represent a deepening of Ford’s commitment to EVs in China. In April, it outlined plans to offer EV versions of all models built by its partnership with Changan Automobile Co. by 2025.

However, Ford also said at the time that it would take a cautious approach to the market due to uncertainty about consumer interest and government policy.

In the first seven months of 2017, Zotye’s sales of battery-electric vehicles jumped 56 percent year on year to 16,000 units. Ford described Zotye as the market leader in China's all-electric small vehicle segment.

The privately-owned company, which is headquartered in China's coastal Zhejiang province, also makes SUVs and cargo trucks. On Monday, it reported a six-fold jump in first-half profits.

Ford said it would release details about the brand, products and production volumes at a later date, pending a final agreement and regulatory approvals.

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