Ford revs up in China, roars past Toyota and Honda

Mon Jan 6, 2014 5:19am EST
 
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By Norihiko Shirouzu

BEIJING (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co. (F.N: Quote) and its local partners boosted sales in China by nearly 50 percent last year, nudging past Japanese giants Toyota Motor Corp. (7203.T: Quote) and Honda Motor Co.(7267.T: Quote) to make big inroads into the world's largest auto market.

For much of the past decade, Ford has trailed Japan's big car makers, but a line-up of new and revamped vehicles, including the top-selling Focus, and a China-Japan territorial spat helped the U.S. company in 2013.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker said on Monday that along with its local partners, it had sold 935,813 vehicles in China last year, a 49-percent increase from 2012.

Ford still lags a long way behind General Motors Co(GM.N: Quote) and Volkswagen AG(VOWG_p.DE: Quote) which are both expected to announce sales of more than 3 million vehicles in China last year.

Toyota and its two local joint-venture partners sold about 917,500 vehicles in China last year, up 9.2 percent from 2012. Honda's 2013 China volume totaled 756,882 vehicles, up 26.4 percent from 2012.

Industry insiders and experts attributed Ford's surge to its beefed-up product lineup. New in the showroom since late 2012 are a couple of small sport-utility vehicles and the redesigned Focus. It also added the redesigned Mondeo car, a China version of the car marketed in North America as the Fusion, to its lineup.

What also helped Ford was a sales crisis that hit Japanese brands in the fall of 2012 and lingered through 2013.

Violent protests and calls for boycotts of Japanese products broke out across China in 2012 after Japan nationalized two East China Sea islands, known as the Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese, by buying them from their private owners. Japanese car makers' sales in China fell sharply as a result.   Continued...

 
People look at a Toyota car during the 15th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition in Shanghai April 21, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria