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China-focused models unveiled at Beijing auto show

Bishkek (AKIpress) - auto show Ford Motor Co. on Sunday unveiled a new Escort sedan designed in China for global sale at a Beijing auto show that highlighted the growing influence of Chinese tastes on the industry, CBC reported.

Automakers are looking to China's biggest auto show this year to help boost sales in this huge but cooling market. Total sales last year reached 17.9 million vehicles, but growth is expected to slow from 15.7 percent to as low as 8 percent.

The new Escort, a compact sedan with a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, was designed at Ford's development center in China with features to appeal to local tastes. They include a bigger back seat for children and grandparents, lighter colors and cup holders made to fit iced tea bottles.

The Escort goes on sale in China this year, expanding later to other markets.

Ford joins a trend led by brands including GM's Cadillac unit that include features intended to appeal to Chinese tastes in models sold globally. Others such as Daimler Benz AG's Mercedes Benz are breaking from the industry trend of selling the same vehicles everywhere and are reworking models for sale in China with added back seat room and other features.

This weekend, GM debuted a new version of the Chevrolet Cruze and displayed its Trax SUV, targeting China's booming sport utility market. Chinese SUV maker Great Wall Motors Co. unveiled its latest model, the Haval 8.

China's annual auto shows, held in Beijing and Shanghai in alternating years, have grown into some of the industry's most important commercial events.

Relatively strong Chinese sales helped to support the global industry while the United States and Europe slumped following the 2008 financial crisis.

Meanwhile, Fiat SpA and its Chrysler Group LLC arm announced that their Jeep brand would begin manufacturing in China next year with Fiat's local partner, Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. That will allow Jeep to avoid steep import taxes.

Automakers in China face challenges including curbs imposed by Beijing, Shanghai and other cities on the number of new registrations they allow in an effort to reduce eye-searing smog. That has prompted manufacturers to shift emphasis to smaller cities and the countryside, promoting smaller and lower-cost vehicles.

Luxury manufacturers also are expanding their range to include more small vehicles for younger, well-heeled buyers.

Thus, Mercedes unveiled an extended version of its smaller C-series sedan.

Other global automakers also showed vehicles that highlighted the role of Chinese creative talent at their design centers in China as well as consumer demand.

Nissan Motor Co. debuted a concept sedan, the Lannia, created by the Chinese staff of its Beijing design center. The company says China is a major element in its global turnaround plan.

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