Ford is joining Daimler, Renault and Fiat in increasing its footprint in Russia -- the best auto market in Europe. Ford (F, quote ) just signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a joint venture with Sollers, a local car maker owned by global steel company Severstal to build and distribute its cars throughout Russia. The project should get going by the end of the year, which should help F get a piece of what is truly the best -- arguably, the only -- growth market for car sales in Europe. Competition for Daimler (DAI, quote ) and entrenched rivals like Renault (RNSDF, quote ), which is beefing up its stake in Russian car maker AvtoVAZ (extremely thinly traded as AVTZF, quote ) to a full controlling position. Fiat (FIATY, quote ) needs Russia more than anyone else if it wants to keep Europe at the heart of its business. Granted, the company's business in Brazil and other emerging markets is booming, but FIATY is hurting for growth closer to home.