SHANGHAI: Ford, the US automaker, is seeking to enhance its position in China, where the car market is continuing to grow despite the pressures of the economic downturn.

The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers reported that 9.23 million passenger vehicles were bought in the country over the period from January to November, an improvement of 50% year-on-year.

Ford is represented locally through its 35% stake in Changan Ford Mazda, and it expects this arm of its operations to sell 320,000 units in 2009, up by more than half on an annual basis.

Its partners in this venture are Chongqing Changan Automobile and Mazda – which is also part-owned by the Detroit-based corporation –although around three-quarters of its output carry the American firm's branding.

As Ford has recently reduced its holding in Mazda, it is now reviewing the structure of its activity in China, with the aim of boosting its proportion of category sales, which is currently in the low single digits.

Joe Hinrichs, its president for Asia Pacific and Africa, said "clearly we believe that we should have a stronger presence than 2% of the market. We need to grow our business in Asia."

As part of this process, the company is moving its Asian headquarters from Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, to Shanghai.

Mercedes-Benz is among the best-performing multinationals in China at present, having seen its sales rise by 224% in November, to 8,500 vehicles.

The luxury specialist also expects its full-year totals to come in ahead of its original forecast of 65,000 such purchases.

BMW has similarly reported there is an "extremely positive trend" observable in the rapidly-emerging economy, as evidenced by the fact that its number of deliveries jumped by 40%, to 8,470, last month.

Audi shipped some 16,503 cars in the same timeframe, more than doubling its equivalent figures from 2008, indicating the overall strength of the premium segment.

Looking forward, the German firm has predicted that the world's most populous nation will leapfrog Germany to become its largest single source of sales in either 2012 or 2013.

Data sourced from Financial Times, Detriot Free Press, Reuters; additional content by Warc staff