Ford Motor Company started producing its fuel-efficient low-cost Fiesta car at a plant in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing on Thursday, the company said.
The Changan Ford Mazda Automobile Company will produce the Fiesta for the Chinese market, with the first vehicles expected to go on sale later in the first quarter, the company said in a statement.
The latest version of the Fiesta debuted last year in Europe, with 61,000 cars sold so far, Ford said.
Ford is one of the US auto giants striving to accommodate car buyers who are abandoning gasoline-guzzling sport-utility vehicles in favour of more fuel-efficient sedans after oil prices hit record highs last year.
The auto maker has been touting Fiesta, its second-best selling vehicle behind the Ford Focus, as the first in "a series of global cars."
"We are leveraging our global assets and expertise to design and build vehicles that meet the demands and expectations of customers around the world," Joe Hinrichs, Ford's group vice president for global manufacturing and labour affairs, said in the statement.
The Nanjing plant will be the first facility to build the four-door sedan version of the Fiesta and is the second assembly facility in the world to build the car, the company said.
Production began at Ford's Cologne, Germany, assembly plant last year and will begin later this month at Ford's plant in Valencia, Spain.
The Fiesta will go on sale in North America in early 2010 and will be produced at Ford's Cuautitlan Assembly Plant in Mexico.
In 2010, Ford and Mazda's joint-venture facility, Auto Alliance Thailand, in Rayong will begin producing the new Fiesta for other major Asian markets.
Car sales at Changan Ford Mazda, a joint venture between Ford, its affiliate Mazda Motor and China's Changan Automobile Co, fell 5.9 percent to 204,344 in 2008 as the economic slowdown hit Chinese demand for vehicles.