Ford Motor Co. expects to start building an assembly plant near Hanoi next year, the automaker said.

The company plans to apply for a license from the government early in 1995 and begin construction as soon as the license is approved, said Wayne Booker, Ford's executive vice president for international operations.Booker spoke at a news conference after meeting with Vietnamese government officials.

Ford and Song Cong Diesel Factory are completing a feasibility study for a joint venture to manufacture cars and trucks for the Vietnamese market, Booker said.

He said Ford would own a majority stake in the operation, but declined to say how much it would invest.

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At first, the plant would assemble vehicles from imported parts, but Ford has agreed to help Vietnam develop a local auto parts industry, Booker said.

Economic growth in this nation of 72 million has been rapid since the Communist government implemented free market reforms in 1986, and Ford has joined a list of automakers eager to get in early.

Chrysler Corp. is planning to break ground for an auto plant near Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, in February. Japanese, South Korean and Philippine companies already assemble automobiles in Vietnam.

Ford estimates that Vietnamese are buying only 5,000 to 6,000 vehicles a year, but Booker said the market is expected to double by 1996 and reach 50,000 to 70,000 vehicles by 2000.

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