Ford's China Syndrome: Too Little, Too Late

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
ford s china syndrome too little too late

Ford is finally waking up from sleeping through the fact that China became the world’s largest car market 2 years ago, and that China will most likely grow explosively for the next 20 years. Ford will introduce 15 new vehicles in China by 2015, the company told Automotive News [sub]. Ford will also more than double the number of its 340 dealerships in China by 2015. Ford furthermore is looking at doubling the work 1,200 strong workforce at its joint venture with China’s Chang’an.

This year will see pretty much nothing of these ambitious plans. The first of the 15 new cars for China will be the all-new Ford Focus compact. Ford will start Chinese production of the new Focus in 2012. An initial capacity of 150,000 units is planned at a new joint venture plant with Changan in Chongqing. AN says that Ford is “expanding rapidly to close the gap on rivals such as Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co. in the world’s largest auto market.”

If that is the case, then maybe I have looked in the wrong places. As our latest, J.D. Power-supplied sales rankings of Chinese brands show, Ford finds itself on place 14, behind such powerhouses as Chery ( BYD ( Great Wall ( and Suzuki ( In the first two months of 2011, Ford sold 51,170 cars in China. In the same period, the Volkswagen brand sold 276,137, Hyundai sold 129,430, and Toyota sold 124,286. Ford is looking at a minuscule share of 2.4 percent of the Chinese market, compared to 12.8 percent of the Volkswagen brand alone. One of Ford’s biggest seller in China is the Ford Transit.

Ford is a late-comer in China. It started in 2003, building some 20,000 Fiestas from kits. In 2006, Mazda joined the fray for a threesome. Like most threesomes, it didn’t work out. After Ford and Mazda disengaged in Japan, Ford and Mazda parted ways in China and started their own joint ventures – both with Changan. The separation is not finished yet and won’t be finished until the Chongqing plant will be operational in 2012. All this does not help.

Also, compared to the aggressive expansion plans of China industry majors, which intend to more than double their joint capacity by 2015, Ford’s expansion plans in China sound like too little, too late.

Join the conversation
3 of 9 comments
  • Eldard Eldard on Apr 15, 2011

    This is a blessing in disguise for Ford. If they sold millions in China, they'd have to recall millions also. Them being the king of recalls, king of rollovers, and king of spontaneous combustion and all.

    • CJinSD CJinSD on Apr 15, 2011

      At least the Fords would be closer to the source of their defective components. Just think how much faster Mustang customers could get their replacement manual transmissions if the parts didn't have to travel around the world.

  • Detlump Detlump on Apr 15, 2011

    Sometimes being first to market isn't always a good thing, look at Apple. They wait and then come in with a vengeance. GM and VW have a big lead now, but Ford is capable of coming on strong. They should study the others and learn from their mistakes. The market isn't going to collapse there and everyone will start riding bicycles again.

  • Lou_BC "15mpg EPA" The 2023 ZR2 Colorado is supposed to be 16 mpg
  • ToolGuy "The more aerodynamic, organic shape of the Mark VIII meant ride height was slightly lower than before at 53.6 inches, over 54.2” for the Mark VII."• I am not sure that ride height means what you think it means.Elaboration: There is some possible disagreement about what "ride height" refers to. Some say ground clearance, some say H point (without calling it that), some say something else. But none of those people would use a number of over 4 feet for a stock Mark anything.Then you go on to use it correctly ("A notable advancement in the Mark VIII’s suspension was programming to lower the ride height slightly at high speeds, which assisted fuel economy via improved aerodynamics.") so what do I know. Plus, I ended a sentence with a preposition. 🙂
  • ToolGuy The dealer knows best. 🙂
  • ToolGuy Cool.
  • ToolGuy This truck is the perfect size, and the fuel economy is very impressive.-This post sponsored by ExxonMobil