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Ford's Russia venture to create R&D centre

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Ford Sollers, a joint venture between U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co and Russian carmaker Sollers , is creating a new research and development centre in Russia to adapt Ford vehicles for the local market, the company said on Thursday.

Western carmakers including Ford, General Motors , Renault and Fiat have invested heavily in production operations in Russia, betting that the market will grow as people look to update old models.

However, Russian car sales have fallen for six months in a row as Russia's $2 trillion economy has faltered. Lobby group the Association of European Businesses (AEB) recently cut its sales forecast for the full year to 2.8 million vehicles, a fall of 5 percent.

Ford Sollers said the new R&D activities will be based in three locations - Moscow, Tatarstan and the St Petersburg region, the venture said.

Formed in late 2011 and headquartered in the Moscow region of Khimki, the Ford Sollers venture has production facilities near St Petersburg and in Tatarstan and produces eight models in total in Russia including several SUVs.

Its models are: Ford Kuga, Ford Explorer, Ford S-MAX, Ford Galaxy, Ford Transit and Tourneo Custom, as well as the Focus and Mondeo models.

(Reporting by Megan Davies; editing by David Evans)

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