Ford Motor Co. has some catching up to do in China. Ford’s strategy to narrow the gap between Volkswagen and General Motors includes the addition of around 110 dealers in China in 2012, according to Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of Asia-Pacifica and Africa. This is the same number of dealers added in 2011.
He said that Ford currently has about 400 dealerships in China. Hinrichs explained that within the next two years, Ford dealerships in China will have to hire about 25,000 workers. Ford has targeted the addition of 680 dealerships in China within three years. In April, Ford’s sales in China rose 24% to 54,881 units, driven by the demand for the new Focus. On the first few weeks that it has been offered, a total of 9,400 Focus units were sold.
Ford and its joint venture partners will launch 15 vehicles in China. Last April, the redesigned Focus became available and was launched by Ford's partner, Changan Ford Mazda Automotive Ltd. This vehicle was personalized to fit the local market. For instance, it features Ford's Sync voice recognition in Mandarin.
So far this year, Ford’s sales in China have reached 176,274 vehicles. In the statement, Hinrich said that Ford's investments in China and throughout Asia stand for its biggest and quickest global expansion in 50 years. This expansion has made the company realize that it could boost sales worldwide by about 50%.
He explained that with this expansion, sales will increase by 50% from 2010 to about 8 million vehicles annually by mid-decade to catch up with GM, VW and Toyota Motor Co. Ford is aiming to boost local production of the vehicles and hopes to partner with a big Chinese company.
Nonetheless, Ford is building on its commitment with a series of new investments. Ford said in early April that it will expand its Chongqing plant in southwest China. In mid-April, Ford said it will invest $760 million for the construction of a factory in Hangzhou outside Shanghai with capacity of 250,000 units by 2015. [source: Autonews]