Manufacturing News

Ford expands its China dealer network

Ford Motor Co. is beefing up its dealership network in China as it pushes hard to catch up with rivals such as Volkswagen AG and General Motors.

Ford plans to add 110 dealers this year in China, similar to the number it added last year, said Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of Asia-Pacific and Africa.

The automaker has 400 dealerships in China now, Hinrichs said.

Ford dealers in China will add about 25,000 employees in the next couple of years, Hinrichs said. It's part of Ford's plan to expand its China sales network to 680 dealerships in three years.

Ford's sales in China continue to rise as it adds dealerships, expands production and introduces new models.

In April, Ford's sales increased 24 percent to 54,881 units, as the automaker got a lift from the introduction of the redesigned Focus, with sales of 9,400 units in its first few weeks in the market.

The Focus is one of 15 models that Ford and its joint venture partners are introducing in China through 2015.

Ford's joint venture, Changan Ford Mazda Automotive Ltd., launched the redesigned Focus in April. The Focus features Ford's Sync voice recognition system in Mandarin.

Ford has sold 176,274 vehicles in China so far this year.

"Ford's investments in China and across Asia represent its largest and most rapid global expansion in 50 years," Hinrichs said in a statement. "This expansion will help us realize an increase in global sales by about 50 percent from 2010 to about 8 million vehicles annually by mid-decade."

Ford has trailed rivals GM, VW and Toyota Motor Co. in creating a local manufacturing footprint and pairing with a big Chinese partner.

But Ford is increasing its commitment with a series of new investments.

In early April, Ford said it will expand its Chongqing plant in southwest China. In mid-April, Ford said it will spend $760 million to build a factory in Hangzhou outside Shanghai with capacity of 250,000 units by 2015.

Hinrichs said Ford also is expanding its Nanjing product development center.

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