BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- Ford Motor Co. formally took over the Romanian plant Automobile Craiova from the Romanian government on Friday.
Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu handed the factory's key to Ford of Europe President John Fleming, saying that Ford's investment of about $1 billion would allow Romania to become the biggest car producer in southeastern Europe.
Last year, Dearborn-based Ford bought a 72.4 percent stake in the state-owned company, paying about $88 million and vowing to invest $1 billion to upgrade and expand car production. Ford said it would increase the number of employees from 3,900 to between 7,000 and 9,000.
''I believe that the presence of two carmakers on our market will encourage interest in others,'' Tariceanu said.
The Renault-owned Dacia plant in Romania already produces the popular Logan make and a new brand, Sandero.
Fleming said that the first vehicles -- which will be Transit Connect vans -- will come out of the factory in 2009. From 2010 the plant will manufacture a small, spacious and cheap car that will only be made in Romania. Fleming declined to give more details about the new model.
From a production of 16,000 cars in 2009, the company expects to reach 300,000 cars in four years.
The takeover was delayed when the European Union launched an investigation into the sale. The EU's executive arm said the stake was worth $132 million and the Romanian state had lost $42 million. Regulators ordered the government to demand Automobile Craiova pay the state the lost revenue from the sale. Ford agreed to pay the sum.
The Romanian government took over the debt-laden factory in 2006 after the previous owner, South Korea's Daewoo Motor Co., went bankrupt in 2000.