Autos

Ford's battle to turn around its China business

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Why Ford is falling behind in China

Ford Motor is fighting to gain ground in China as its market gets as tough as it has been in decades.

All three Detroit automakers, plus newcomer Tesla, are trying different ways to snag a piece of the world's largest car market. Number 1 U.S. automaker General Motors is also the biggest U.S. carmaker in China by sales. Ford is in second place, with Fiat Chrysler trailing behind. 

Tesla has been importing cars to China, but in November, it said it plans to soon begin selling vehicles made in its China factory. Tesla is the first U.S. automaker to be permitted to sell Chinese-made vehicles in the country without partnering with a Chinese firm.

Ford's share of the Chinese market has not cracked more than 5% since 2008, and the company has actually lost share since 2015, from a high of 4.7% of the market in 2015 to 2.9% in 2018.

To be fair to Ford, things are getting tougher for all automakers in the country. Sales have slowed and automakers have had to resort to discounting and other measures to prop up sales. GM had a much larger 13.8% share of the market in 2018, but has also lost ground since 2015.

In April, Ford unveiled a new strategy to improve sales and profits in the country. It has spun the China business out of its Asia-Pacific operations, turning it into its own entity. It also named Chinese auto industry veteran Anning Chen president of the division.

Ford is now focused on developing China-specific products, and leveraging the region as a hub for the design and manufacture of products that can be sold elsewhere in the world.