American carmaker Ford will invest US$1.8 billion in research and development in China, it said on Monday, despite falling sales in the world's biggest car market. The 11.4 billion yuan investment, to be completed by 2020, would build up Ford's research and development capability in China, especially at an existing engineering centre in the eastern city of Nanjing, Ford said in a statement. "With this investment in research and development, the next generation of Ford vehicles will be completely designed around our customers," said Mark Fields, Ford's president. Ford sold 700,196 vehicles in China during the first eight months of this year, but that was down some 1 per cent from the same period last year, amid an overall slowdown in the market due to weaker economic growth. In August, Ford reported sales of 79,608 vehicles in China, down 3 per cent year on year. Still, Ford said it would expand its product line for the Chinese market by launching two electric vehicles next year. Beijing has made alternative-energy vehicles a priority but sales have disappointed despite the government push, industry officials say. Ford also said it had teamed up with Dida Pinche, operator of China's largest car-pooling app, to match Ford drivers with passengers in Beijing and Shanghai, cities that are plagued by traffic congestion.