The second largest US automaker announced on Monday it would spend 11.4 billion yuan ($1.8 billion) over the next half decade to increase the pace of research and development in China, a signal the company seeks to increase further its presence in the world’s largest auto market.
Ford, which just last year introduced its Lincoln luxury brand in China, has been a late comer to the world’s biggest auto market, but its market share jumped faster than at rivals mainly thanks to the continued weakness of Japanese automakers, hit by political turmoil between Tokyo and Beijing. Ford has also gained market share rapidly because it was keen to listen to and incorporate Chinese motorist tastes into its models delivered in the country. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker is currently ranked No.5 among global automakers in China, behind GM, Volkswagen, Hyundai and Nissan.
Chief executive officer Mark Fields, present during a corporate event in Shanghai, was keen to announce besides the investment the addition of the company’s C-MAX Energi, a plug-in hybrid and the Mondeo hybrid in the Chinese lineup in 2016. “By 2020 we will offer customers in China a range of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full electric vehicles,” commented Fields. The automaker is looking to respond to the current climate, where the Beijing officials have been encouraging heavily with subsidies and incentives the switch to “new energy vehicles” (electric autos and plug in hybrids) to lower pollution and dependence on imported oil. Progress so far has been very slow, with consumers mainly citing the lack of a proper infrastructure to ease the use of such unconventional models.