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Ford's localization efforts paying off in China Updated: 2020-12-02
Visitors try out a Ford Explorer model at an auto show in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

US carmaker Ford is stepping up localization efforts in China, covering car production, design and development, according to senior executives of its Chinese joint venture.

Like many other international carmakers, Ford used to carry out design stages in places such as North America or Europe and then make some twists when the models were introduced into China.

It is no longer the case, though, said Changan Ford President Steven Armstrong at the Guangzhou auto show that concluded last week.

He said Ford cars produced in China are now basically designed in China. The carmaker even opened a new design facility in Shanghai earlier this year to handle the increasingly greater work load.

He cited the examples of the Ford Explorer SUV that hit the market earlier this year and the Focus crossover wagon, which was launched at the Guangzhou auto show.

Such things as the grilles and onboard infotainment functions in China are different from in North America and Europe.

The SYNC+ infotainment system available in China was co-developed with China's internet technology company Baidu to meet the demands of tech-savvy Chinese customers, said Armstrong.

He said Ford will go even further by developing models in the country. "It is good proof that we are now producing vehicles for the Chinese market," Armstrong said.

The efforts are paying off. Ford statistics show that a total of 164,352 vehicles were sold in China in the third quarter this year, a 25.4 percent year-over-year growth – the largest since the fourth quarter of 2016 – and a 3.6 percent increase from the second quarter this year.

In the first 10 months this year, Changan Ford's SUV sales soared almost 60 percent year-on-year, against the backdrop of a 10.2 percent drop in China's overall passenger vehicle market.

The momentum, coupled with the joint venture's efforts to cut inventory, is improving dealers' profitability.

Zhao Fei, executive vice-president of the joint venture, said, "Our operational quality is much better now. The product mix is improved and 65 percent to 70 percent of our dealers are in profit."

Changan Ford said it will strengthen the competitiveness of its sales network and expand into smaller cities, which are an increasingly important source of car buyers.

"This year, we have achieved win-win results, ensuring the interests of us and our partners. For 2021, we will take a practical, step by step approach. I think we can keep steady growth," Zhao said.