In the latest sign that Ford Motor Co. is trying to strengthen its presence in the world’s biggest car market, the company has announced its first proving ground in China.
The 163-acre Nanjing Test Center will feature 80 different types of road surface conditions, a test track and an emissions testing facility.
“This investment makes sense,” said Dave Sullivan, product analysis manager at AutoPacific, Inc. “If anything, this shows Ford is lagging behind rivals in China but that they believe China is a long-term play.”
In October, Ford saw a 5% drop in sales to 105,809 vehicles from a year earlier in China. Ford also reported a 5% drop in year-to-date sales to 938,570 vehicles between 2016 and 2017 in China.
“It will also reduce our need to send prototypes abroad, saving time and money in the product development process,” said Trevor Worthington, vice president of the Asia Pacific product development for Ford, in a statement released on Black Friday.
The $103 million project is part of an overall $197 million investment at Ford’s 2,000-employee research and engineering center in Nanjing.
In addition to the vehicle testing facility, Ford said the site will include a “MakerSpace” creative hub, one of four labs planned for Asia Pacific by the end of 2018, “designed to further product capability and innovation in China.”