Ford Motor Co. will begin production of a new small car at its Changan Ford Mazda Automobile Co. Ltd. joint venture in Nanjing, China, in 2008, a top official confirms at the Shanghai auto show today.

Ford does not reveal whether the small car will be the B-car it announced for North America and other markets, which reportedly will bow in 2009 as a ’10 model. Ford has said, however, the upcoming B-car will share a platform with the Mazda2 unveiled at the recent Geneva auto show, making it a likely candidate for the Nanjing plant.

Meanwhile, Mei-Wei Cheng, chairman and CEO of Ford Motor China, says the start of volume production at the new Changan Ford Mazda Engine plant will be announced “very soon.”

The facility, located next to the Nanjing plant, will be capable of producing 350,000 engines annually, the auto maker says.

In addition, vehicle production at the Nanjing facility will commence before the end of the year, while output of the third-generation Ford Mondeo will begin at Ford’s Changan Automobile Co. Ltd. JV plant later this year.

“These collective announcements underscore Ford Motor’s commitment to the China market and China’s growing importance to our overall growth strategy,” Cheng says in a statement. “Our local partnerships and the smooth implementation of our China strategy have greatly contributed to Ford becoming a leader of China’s automobile market.”

Last year, Changan Ford Mazda posted an 86.6% increase in vehicle sales vs. prior-year. First-quarter sales this year totaled 38,908 units, a 40.8% jump over year-ago, the auto maker says.

Cheng says the newly formed Ford Motor Research and Engineering Co. center in Nanjing, which received government approval in March, will play an integral role in the auto maker’s global research and design efforts, as well as enhance Ford China’s local engineering capabilities.