Ford plays catch-up in China with new plan, dealerships

Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:43am EST
 
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By Fang Yan and Ken Wills

CHONGQING (Reuters) - Ford Motor (F.N: Quote) is on track to double the number of dealerships in China by 2015, its country chief said on Friday, as it launches a half-billion-dollar plant and races to narrow the gap with foreign rivals in the world's largest auto market.

Ford, which unveiled the new Focus at the opening of a plant in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing, is adding an average of two outlets a week to bring the total to 680 by 2015, said David Schoch, chairman and CEO of Ford's China operations.

"Obviously, it's not only important for us to grow the production capacity and get the new products in, but we have to improve the retail distribution network," Schoch told Reuters.

Ford, which steered clear of a bankruptcy filing and U.S. government bailout in 2009, is a relatively late-comer in China, where General Motors (GM.N: Quote) and Volkswagen AG (VOWG.DE: Quote) have built a sizeable lead.

It sold 320,658 vehicles in China last year, compared with Volkswagen's annual tally of 2.26 million and GM's 2.55 million.

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.

OPTIMISM FOR 2012 DESPITE WEAK START   Continued...

 
The Ford Motor Company logo is shown during the firm's annual meeting of shareholders in Wilmington, Delaware May 12, 2011. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer