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Ford recalls 191,770 Focus sedans in China on fuel leak risk

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co will recall 191,770 cars in China from Friday to replace some parts after a quality watchdog found a fuel leak risk in the Ford Focus, the country's best-selling compact sedan.

Ford's Chinese venture Changan Ford Automobile Co Ltd will recall New Focus and Classic Focus sedans produced as far back as 2009, China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in a statement on its website.

The Ford Focus was the best-selling model in the compact sedan segment last year with sales of 403,600 cars and remained top of the ranking in the first seven months of 2014, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Carmakers in China recalled a record 5.3 million vehicles last year as regulators stepped up efforts to protect consumers. Nearly 40 percent of the vehicles were recalled after government investigations into potential defects.

The Ford recall came after an inspection by the quality watchdog in response to customer complaints over fuel leak issues that experts say could potentially lead to fires.

Changan Ford had launched a customer satisfaction scheme but decided to upgrade it to an official recall to ensure all cars in question were covered and to "alleviate any potential customer concerns", Ford China spokeswoman Claire Li said.

It is not immediately clear how the recall will affect Ford's business in China.

Ford's China sales are already showing signs of a slowdown, posting a 9 percent year-on-year volume increase in August, down from double-digit growth in all other months this year and a 49 percent surge in 2013.

Changan Ford, Ford's venture with Chongqing Changan Automobile Co Ltd <000625.SZ>, said it will replace the necessary components for free to eliminate safety hazards, according to Friday's statement.

China's quality watchdog said it would monitor the recall and may require Ford to expand or renew the recall if necessary.

Ford, a latecomer to the world's biggest auto market, is stepping up efforts to catch up with rivals such as GM and Volkswagen AG .

Ford plans to launch its premium Lincoln brand in China later this year with eight Lincoln retail outlets in seven Chinese cities from October.

(Reporting by Samuel Shen and Kazunori Takada; editing by David Clarke)