Taurus revamp debuts in China as Ford counters U.S. sedan slump

Sat Apr 18, 2015 10:26am EDT
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By Norihiko Shirouzu and Joseph White

SHANGHAI/DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co's (F.N: Quote) global premiere of its redesigned Taurus sedan in China underscores a shift in its U.S. home market from the big sedan to roomier, utilitarian crossover SUVs.

There's a similar trend in China, the world's biggest car market, but there is still a decent appetite among Chinese buyers for large sedans while, in the United States, demand has stagnated.

According to research firm IHS Automotive, China's market for large sedans has overtaken the United States, with sales of around 4 million last year, topping the 3.6 million sold in the U.S. By 2020, IHS expects that gap to have widened to 5.3 million large sedans in China and 3.7 million in the U.S.

Ford unveiled the Taurus redesign, which it says is aimed specifically for the Chinese market and won't be for sale in the U.S., at a media event on Saturday ahead of the Shanghai autoshow.

Ford hasn't said whether or when it will replace the current Taurus in the U.S.

In China, Ford will aim the new Taurus at business people and entrepreneurs who want a car with a spacious back seat and a more conservative design, says spokesman Craig von Essen. Ford will assemble the car in Hangzhou, China with local partner Chongqing Changan Automobile (000625.SZ: Quote).

"Large sedans being sold in China today are luxuries and there is a gap there between luxury brands and popular brands. That's where we're aiming this car at," Ford China Chairman and CEO John Lawler told Reuters on the sidelines of the Shanghai show.

The Taurus is not going to be a volume leader in China for the Dearborn, Mich. automaker. "But Ford needs a premium, flagship car like the Taurus ... because in China there is growing demand for such cars from consumers trading up from run-of-the-mill midsize sedans," said James Chao, IHS Automotive's Asia-Pacific managing director.   Continued...

A  2015 red Ford Taurus sedan is seen in the showroom at the Suburban Ford dealership in Sterling Heights, Michigan, February 6, 2015.   REUTERS/Rebecca Cook