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Ford and Zotye have signed a memorandum of understand to begin investigating and laying the groundwork for an all-new Chinese brand, which will exclusively market and develop electric vehicles.

According to Ford, China is the world’s fastest growing market for electric vehicles. Spurred by government incentives, the American firm believes sales of “new energy vehicles” will hit six million per year by 2025. Four million of these cars are expected to be pure electric models.

It’s not known when the first joint venture models will go on sale, with the partners yet to complete their preparatory work, sign a definitive agreement or gain government approval.

Above: Zotye SR9.

If this joint venture does come to fruition, Zotye would become Ford’s third Chinese manufacturing partner after Changan and Jiangling. It would also represent quite a coup for the Chinese automaker.

Last year the brand attracted plenty of negative media attention with its SR9 crossover, a model which very closely resembles the Porsche Macan, both inside and out.

It’s not the only model in Zotye’s range that borrows liberally from the designs of others. There’s also the SR7 (Audi A3), Cloud 100S (Suzuki Alto), T600 (a Volkswagen Touareg and Audi Q5 mashup), Damy X7 (Volkswagen Atlas), and Damy X5 (Volkswagen Tiguan)

That said, the company does use drivetrains licensed from Mitsubishi, and has bought tooling and the rights to a number of platforms from Fiat.

Unlike many of its native counterparts, Zotye doesn’t currently operate a joint venture manufacturing, design or engineering operation with a foreign automaker, a requirement if overseas companies want to make cars in China.

Above: Zotye E200.

Last Zotye sold just over 300,000 cars in China. Of these, around 16,000 were the Smart ForTwo-size E200 EVs.

Ford says this potential joint venture is part of its “societal goals of improving air quality and addressing climate change”, and has outlined plans to invest US$4.5 billion ($5.7 billion) in electric vehicle development, with 13 electrified models due to be released over the next five years. Among this will be a new small crossover EV aimed at Asia, North America, and Europe.

The Blue Oval has also stated it wants 70 per cent of its Chinese sales to feature “electrified powertrain options” by 2025.

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