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Ford highlights China in turnaround plan

By Li Fusheng | | Updated: 2018-10-24 10:21
New Ford Focus is presented during a media preview of the Auto China 2018 motor show in Beijing, on April 25, 2018.[Photo/VCG]

Ford Motor Co is moving China up in its business strategy to the level of North America, making the country a new pillar of its efforts to seek a return to global growth, said the US carmaker on Wednesday.

"As we reposition our global business for long-term success, China will be elevated to become one of our two most significant markets, along with North America," said Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett in a statement.

Among other measures, Ford China will be made a stand-alone business unit that directly reports to the carmaker's global headquarters in Michigan. Previously, it reported to Ford Asia-Pacific.

Hackett said he expects the move will accelerate the reorganization of its business in China, which is the world's largest vehicle market and one of the largest markets for Ford.

Ford's China sales have been falling since 2017 due to a number of reasons, including slow model introductions and less efficient marketing capabilities.

Its deliveries in the country fell 30 percent year-on-year to 585,171 units from January to September this year. In the same period, 20.49 million vehicles were sold in the Chinese market, up 1.5 percent year-on-year, according to statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

"China is absolutely essential to Ford's profitability and growth," said Jim Farley, Ford's executive vice-president and president of global markets.

To better steer its China business, Ford has also appointed a China-born executive, Anning Chen, to head its operations in the country. A seasoned automotive veteran, Chen was CEO of China's Chery Automobile and chairman of Jaguar Land Rover's Chinese joint venture.

Ford said it expects Chen, who will start his role from November as president and CEO of Ford China, to "bring to life the company's global strategy while leading Ford's future development in China".

"As we leverage China to become a stand-alone business unit led by an experienced Chinese business leader, we are able to build a leaner business structure, make decisions more efficiently and become closer to our customers," said Farley.

Chen was one of the latest executives with a Chinese background to join Ford's China business. Earlier this year, Li Hongpeng was appointed its sales chief and Mao Jingbo, head of its Lincoln operations in the country and the Asia-Pacific.

The company said the structural changes and new leadership would facilitate its "In China, For China" strategy.

As part of the strategy, Ford announced late last year that it will launch more than 50 new models by 2025, including eight SUVs and 15 electrified vehicles under Ford and Lincoln brands.

With the first of them to hit showrooms later this year, the carmaker expects its sales in China to recover from early 2019.

It also hopes that China will play an important role in its future businesses.

"Ford is committed to strengthening its leading position in electrification, autonomous driving and smart mobility services, and to becoming the most trusted company globally," said Hackett. "During this transformation, China and North America will become our two most significant markets."

In China, Ford has signed deals with leading technology companies including Baidu and Alibaba to explore cooperation in artificial intelligence, autonomous driving, connectivity and digital marketing.

It has partnered with the country's Zotye Automobile to produce electric vehicles, and the two are eyeing opportunities in China's ride-hailing market by establishing a joint venture to provide mobility solutions to fleet operators and drivers.

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