Ford Eyeing Blue Oval Trucks Built in China
China’s new vehicle market may not be as hot as it once was, but it’s still big. Very big. And pickup trucks, hungrily gobbled up by fleet operators, are a less volatile segment to do business in.
That’s why Ford’s mulling, for the first time, the idea of building Ford-branded trucks inside the country, rather than just importing them. However, before the automaker signs off on such an effort, China will have to do its part.
As reported by Reuters, Ford’s appearance this week at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) brought with it the possibility of local production, but only if Chinese cities become more receptive to allowing pickups in their city centers.
Several major cities in the vastly polluted country ban the use of such vehicles in their urban cores, giving U.S. automakers cold feet on the issue. The situation is evolving, though. Some cities have relaxed their once-rigid laws, with others poised to follow. That, plus the growing appetite for pickups among the Chinese citizenry, has American OEMS salivating over the possibility of boosted market share and boffo overseas profits.
Hoping to capture more buyers, Ford decided to overhaul its presence in the country via the formation of a standalone business unit (Ford China) in October 2018.
“If more areas relax restrictions on pickup trucks, we will plan to locally manufacture Ford-branded pickup trucks in China to meet the demands of Chinese consumers with considerations of the market situation,” Joseph Liu, Ford’s China vice president for product innovation, told Reuters.
Nothing was said about which pickups would enter production, or how those models would be configured. Chinese buyers aren’t very interested in towing, for example, and spaces are tighter in the country’s cities. All Liu would say is that home-built trucks would differ from models it imports from the U.S.
Currently, Ford supplies tech to its Chinese partner JMC, which builds a line of Yuhu-badged pickups.
Despite a 37.7-percent drop in sales in the third quarter of 2019, Ford claims its pickups are growing in popularity. Volume is still low, but combined sales of the Ranger and F-150 Raptor rose 29 percent in Q3 compared to the same period in 2018. Year to date, Ford-badged truck sales are up 60 percent.
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