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January 8, 2010

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Ford eyes 8% rise after China sales gain in 2009

SALES of Ford Motor Corp in China soared 44 percent last year and the United States car maker expects the Chinese market to grow 8 percent this year in anticipation that a government stimulus package will continue to lure consumers.

Robert Graziano, head of Ford's China operations, said the car maker's sales in China hit a record high of 440,619 units in 2009.

Its passenger-car ventures with Chongqing Chang'an Automobile Co and Mazda Motor sold 315,791 vehicles, a jump of 55 percent from a year earlier. Sales of Ford Transit, a light commercial vehicle, totaled 33,585 units.

Nigel Harris, general manager of Ford's sales unit in China, expects the Chinese auto market to grow 8 percent this year.

"Our ambition is to sell more than the industry average," Harris said, referring to the huge potential in second and third-tier cities.

Graziano said Ford wants to accelerate its expansion in China as it is building a US$490 million third plant, which will boost its total production capacity to 600,000 by 2012. Four new models are also expected to be launched in China within three years.

Other major auto makers, including General Motors and Volkswagen, also drove to robust sales in China last year as they benefited from the government's tax incentives and subsidies.

GM's sales in China increased by 67 percent last year to 1.83 million vehicles and VW's sales in the mainland and Hong Kong grew by 36.7 percent to 1.4 million units.

In addition, Ford will apply fuel-efficient engines and advanced powershift transmissions in Chinese-made cars this year. Within four years, 90 percent of Ford's Chinese-made vehicles will go green, Harris added.

Graziano, however, declined to say if Ford's plant would make Volvo cars after it agreed in principle to sell the Swedish unit to China's Geely Holding Group Co. Ford sold about 15,000 domestically made Volvo cars in China last year.


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