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Ford pushes localization strategy, streamlines sales units in China

By Li Fusheng | China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-11 10:26
Ford shows some of its models in Chongqing ahead of the Beijing auto show in April. [Photo provided China Daily]

US auto giant set to hire more Chinese executives in bid to improve performance, Li Fusheng reports.

Ford Motor Co is streamlining its sales units in China and hiring local executives as part of efforts to boost its lackluster performance in the world's largest car market.

The US carmaker, together with its partner Changan Automobile, announced on Wednesday that its national distribution services division will become operational starting July 1.

As part of its Changan Ford joint venture, the division will be responsible for marketing, sales and servicing of all Ford-branded passenger vehicles sold in China.

Currently, its two joint ventures-Changan Ford and Jiangling Motors-are selling localized Ford cars through their separate networks, and Ford China sells imported models including the Mustang.

Ford has named Li Hongpeng, 50, as president of the newly established division, and Cao Zhenyu, 44, as his deputy.

Li Hongpeng (left), NDSD president, and Mao Jingbo, president of Lincoln China and Asia Pacific. [Photo provided China Daily]

Before joining Ford, Li served as a senior executive of Mercedes-Benz's business in China and helped the German brand to build an efficient and profitable distribution network in the country.

Cao, currently a senior executive of Changan Ford's sales company, has more than 20 years of experience in sales and customer relations.

"This appointment and the establishment of the division further demonstrates our strong commitment to China, and to our partnership, by offering tested talent to lead a simplified, improved and consistent approach to our Ford brand and customers in this critical market," said Ford China CEO Peter Fleet.

Ford has been seeing falling sales in the world's largest car market. It sold less than 1.2 million cars last year, down 6 percent year-on-year. In the first three months this year, Ford sold 207,139 cars, down 19 percent from the same period last year.

The downward trend may continue for a while before its new products start to hit the market later this year.

"New products always help. This is a market that loves new products," said Nigel Harris, president of Changan Ford, when the joint venture gave a glimpse of the new Focus in April.

He said more models are in the pipeline.

"Within three years, 75 percent of Ford models in the showrooms will be new."

Ford's luxury arm Lincoln will keep independent operations in China and runs its own sales and marketing network.

Like its parent company, Lincoln has been localizing its management team, with Mao Jingbo named on Thursday president of the brand's business in China and Asia Pacific region, replacing Amy Marentic.

Before joining Lincoln, Mao worked as a senior executive of Mercedes-Benz's operations in China, responsible for its AMG, smart, V-Class and Vito sales operations.

Lincoln is one of the fastest-growing premium brands in the country. It sold 12,710 cars from January to March, enjoying 10 percent growth year-on-year.

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