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Ford says new plants, models to boost China sales after September dip

Employees drive newly assembled Ford cars into the parking lot of a Ford manufacturing plant in Chongqing municipality April 20, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

By Samuel Shen and Norihiko Shirouzu

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N) said on Friday it expects to boost sales in China once new assembly facilities come online and new vehicles hit showrooms in coming months, after posting its first dip in China monthly sales this year.

The U.S. carmaker and its Chinese joint ventures sold 95,875 vehicles in China in September, down 0.2 percent from the same period a year earlier, the company said.

That follows a 9 percent year-on-year rise in August and double-digit growth in all previous months of 2014.

"We're maxed out," Ford spokeswoman Claire Li said, referring to capacity constraints that are crimping Ford's sales in the world's biggest auto market.

She said new assembly facilities in Hangzhou and Chongqing would ease supply pressures, without providing specific sales targets for the months ahead.

The Chongqing plant would open late this year with annual capacity of 300,000 vehicles, while the Hangzhou plant would bring another 250,000 vehicles online when it began production some time next year.

By the end of 2015, Ford planned to boost its total China capacity to 1.5 million vehicles, reflecting its sales expectations at that time.

Li said there was no sales forecast for next year, although Ford's policy was to align capacity with sales expectations.

Ford's sales in the first nine months of the year totaled 813,412 vehicles, up 26 percent from the same period a year earlier, the carmaker said on Friday.

Ford's China sales have been bolstered by strong growth in SUV models, the Ford Kuga and Ford EcoSport.

"We look forward to our continued growth in China as we prepare to launch our new assembly plants ... (and) new nameplates such as the Ford Escort and the Ford Mustang within the next few months," Ford China Chairman and CEO John Lawler said in a statement.

Ford also plans to launch its premium Lincoln brand in China later this month, with plans to open eight Lincoln retail outlets in seven Chinese cities starting in October.

Ford makes vehicles in China in partnership with Chongqing Changan Automobile Co Ltd <000625.SZ> and Jiangling Motors Corp Ltd <000550.SZ>.

(Additional reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Stephen Coates)