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Ford inks $765 million deal to build electric vehicles in China

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Tapping the world’s biggest market for cars

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Ford has agreed to a $765 million joint venture with Chinese car manufacturer Zotye Auto to build electric vehicles in China, CNET reports. Each company has a 50 percent stake in the effort, though the Chinese government still needs to approve the deal. Once complete, they will build the cars in China’s Zhejiang Province.

The combination of these two companies is a result of a mandate from the Chinese government that requires foreign manufacturers to strike up partnerships with local ones in order to build cars domestically. And considering China recently put extra hurdles in the way of building cars that run on fossil fuels (as opposed to an outright fossil fuel ban, like some other countries), EVs are a natural place for the joint venture to start.

That doesn’t mean it will be the only thing Ford and Zotye make. CNET also reports that the partnership could result in other “mobility” solutions. There were no specifics, but that catch-all term usually refers to bike or ride sharing, caravan services, and sometimes even small personal electric vehicles. Ford has pursued these aggressively in the US, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the company continue those efforts in China, which is dotted with congested megacities that typically require a wider variety of transportation services.

The timing of the announcement is curious, since in September The Wall Street Journal reported that China is considering a relaxation of the partnership mandate in order to woo more stubborn EV makers like Tesla. But Ford had previously signed a “memorandum of understanding” with Zotye in August. The company was likely already under pressure to push into China — the biggest market for automobiles in the world — since competitors like GM have already struck similar deals.