By Guy Faulconbridge
Vsevolozhsk, Russia, July 9 (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co., the world's No. 2 automaker, may quadruple production at a new factory in Russia to take advantage of the country's fourth straight year of growth and cut car prices inflated by import duties.
The company may increase the number of vehicles produced annually at the $150 million factory in Vsevolozhsk, near St. Petersburg, to 100,000 in coming years from its present capacity of 25,000, said John Fleming, vice president of manufacturing for Ford Europe.
``We will continue to grow the plant as we see opportunities open,'' he said, in an interview with Bloomberg News at the opening of the factory today.
Ford, General Motors Corp. and Germany's Bayerische Motoren Werke AG have been reviving plans to expand in Russia that they shelved when the economy collapsed in 1998, drawn back by rising demand in Europe's most populous nation. Auto sales are expected to jump 27 percent in the next five years to 1.19 million vehicles, according to Standard & Poor's.
Ford also is starting production in Russia to avoid import duties that make cars more expensive to local consumers. The company will produce 8,000 Ford Focus models at the plant this year, selling them for about $10,900. The same car sells elsewhere in Europe for about $13,900.
``We know that it's a closed market in Russia, so if we wanted to participate in the growth we believe is here, we needed to be inside with manufacturing,'' Fleming said.