The F-150 Raptor is already available in China, while the new Ford Ranger will be headed to the world's largest automotive market in 2018.

Ford has announced plans to launch its Built Ford Tough pickup truck franchise in China.

Expecting growing demand for such trucks in the world's largest automotive market, the Blue Oval will start with its flagship F-150 Raptor that is going on sale now in the country.

Looking further down the line, the iconic Raptor will eventually be followed by the midsize Ranger in 2018 -- around the same time the Ranger returns to its home market after several decades abroad.

"We see a significant white-space opportunity with Chinese buyers increasingly looking for more capable, more refined and more stylish pickups," says Ford CEO Mark Fields.

Pickups currently account for less than two percent of the Chinese market, but the country is nonetheless the fourth-largest truck market in the world with 14 percent growth last year. Momentum is expected to build as the government eases restrictions on pickup usage in city centers.

The strategy will also presumably allow Ford to secure profits that are otherwise lost to grey-market sales.