The Ford Motor Co. logo stands at the Sutton Ford Lincoln car dealership in Matteson, Illinois, U.S., on Monday, April 3, 2017. Ward's Automotive Group released U.S. monthly total and domestic auto sales figures on April 3. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

INTERNATIONAL - Ford Motor Co. and partner  Anhui Zotye Automobile Co. will invest 5 billion yuan ($756 million) to make and sell small electric cars in China as automakers step up investments in low-emission vehicles in the world’s biggest auto market.

Ford and Zotye plan to build a new manufacturing facility in Zhejiang province and the vehicles will be sold under a new Chinese brand, the U.S. automaker said in an emailed statement Wednesday. The joint venture is equally owned by the two companies and the plans require regulatory approval.

Automakers are accelerating investments into electric vehicles to meet stricter emission and fuel-economy rules set to take effect in major markets. China is implementing a cap-and-trade framework next year that will penalize companies that don’t meet fleet-based limits through fines or buying credits.

While Ford chose to team up with Zotye and Volkswagen AG has partnered with Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group Corp. to make electric cars, companies like Tesla Inc. may benefit if China relaxes its joint-venture rule. The Chinese government is discussing a plan to allow foreign carmakers to set up wholly owned electric-vehicle businesses in its free trade zones, according to company officials briefed on the matter.

Peter Fleet, Ford’s Asia-Pacific president, said in a Bloomberg Television interview that he is due to meet with President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping Thursday. Ford will confirm approximately $10 billion exports from U.S. to China in the next three years, he said. That will include Ford-brand and Lincoln-brand cars and components.

Ford has said it plans for 70 percent of all of its vehicles sold in China to have electrified powertrain options by 2025. Besides Zotye, the automaker also has joint ventures in the country with Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. and Jiangling Motors Corp.

Ford expects the market for new-energy vehicles in China to grow to six million units per year by 2025, of which about four million vehicles will be all-electric. Deliveries of such vehicles rose 53 percent to 507,000 units in 2016, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

In May, Volkswagen received approval for a new joint venture to produce electric cars. Daimler AG and BMW AG also have electric car brands under their partnerships with BYD Co. and Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd.

While carmakers including Tesla are racing to grab a slice of the electric-vehicle market in China, local manufacturers such as Beijing Automotive Group Co. have had considerable success in the market, in part thanks to generous government subsidies. New entrants are also coming in.

Local startup NIO is raising more than $1 billion in a new round of financing from investors led by Tencent Holdings Ltd. to develop affordable and connected battery cars, according to people with director knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified as the information is private.

To give a fillip to the sector, China also eased financing for consumers on Wednesday. Buyers of electric cars can take out loans for up to 85 percent of the cost of a new-energy car, compared with 80 percent for conventional vehicles.

- BLOOMBERG