Ford seeks to catch rivals in China, track to Double Dealerships by 2015 image

Ford Motor Co. opened its fourth assembly plant in China on Friday to build the Ford Focus and try to gain traction in a key market where Ford has lagged the competition.

But questions are already being raised about whether Ford is too late.

Why? Because the U.S. based automaker was late to come to China compared with other major automakers, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The newest plant, which will be able to produce 150,000 vehicles annually, increases Ford’s capacity in China to more than 600,000 vehicles a year.

Ford also has engine and transmission plants in Chongqing which is becoming the automaker’s manufacturing hub. Ford said the region is now second only to southeast Michigan as a global manufacturing center.

Now, in an effort to narrow the gap, Ford plans to bring 15 new vehicles to China by 2015, starting with the new Focus, which is scheduled to hit showrooms across China in the second quarter.

The introduction of new models, said Will Periam, strategy director for Ford’s Asia Pacific and Africa operations, will enable Ford to compete in about 50 percent of the overall market segments in China, up sharply from 22 percent.

In addition, the company is adding an average of two outlets a week to bring the total to 680 by 2015, Schoch told Reuters.

Whether Ford is arriving too late to the party remains to be seen. The company’s first passenger car wasn’t launched in China until 2003, when VW and GM were already selling hundreds of thousands of units.

Ford sold 519,390 vehicles in China in 2011, 7% more than the year before. By comparison, Volkswagen’s China sales rose 18% to 2.26 million vehicles and GM sales rose 8.3% to 2.55 million.