Ford, a latecomer to the booming Chinese automotive market, said Tuesday it will launch 50 new models there by 2025, 15 of them “electrified.”
The announcement, made in Shanghai on Tuesday, is meant to shore up the company’s presence in the world’s largest automotive market — Ford’s Chinese sales sagging in recent months. It also indicates the Detroit-based carmaker will fall in line as Chinese regulators push the industry to introduce more low and zero-emissions vehicles in an effort to deal with endemic pollution problems.
“Between now and 2025, we will launch 50 new vehicles in China, and of those 50 new vehicles, 15 of them will be all-new electrified vehicles,” said Peter Fleet, Ford’s head of Asia Pacific operations.
Ford has been playing a game of catch-up in China, having waited a number of years before committing significant resources to a market where overall passenger vehicle sales totaled 24.4 million last year. It has gained some market share over the last few years, but lags way behind the Chinese market’s leaders, Germany’s Volkswagen AG and U.S. domestic rival General Motors.
(VW investing nearly $12b to meet Chinese EV mandate. Click Here for the latest.)
Complicating matters, after nearly two decades of double-digit growth, the Chinese market is expected to grow no more than 2% for all of 2017, in part due to changes in that country’s tax laws. Going forward, forecasts consulting firm LMC, growth is expected to hover in the low to mid-single digit range. That makes it more difficult for Ford to boost its presence without grabbing market share from rivals. Complicating matters, domestic Chinese brands are beginning to gain momentum as they improve the quality and features of their products, noted veteran analyst Michael Dunne.
Add the fact that China recently enacted new quotas for so-called New Energy Vehicles, or NEVs, including plug-in hybrids and pure battery-electric vehicles. The country’s powerful regulators also are studying the option of banning gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles entirely. China has signaled it may announce such a move – similar bans being studied by France and the UK and already being phased in in both Norway and India.
Ford did not reveal precisely what form of battery-based technologies the 15 electrified vehicles will use. That could include hybrid, plug-in or pure BEV drivelines. But the new rules now in place – and those under study – would press the maker to go with more advanced battery systems. The automaker did note that one of the 15 models will be its first global, all-electric sport-utility vehicle.
Meanwhile, Ford indicated it will increase the number of products it plans to assemble in China. That is also considered critical, as it helps sidestep the hefty tariffs that limit demand for import products. Ford’s domestic Chinese production has so far focused on products sold by its mainstream Blue Oval brand, but it plans to add Lincoln models, including a Lincoln SUV.
(Lincoln abandoning MK naming strategy, Click Here for more.)
Meanwhile, Ford also said it will add in-car connectivity using onboard WiFi systems to all of its Ford and Lincoln models by the end of 2019. Such technology has become increasingly popular in the U.S. and Europe. It not only allows motorists to connect with the Internet to download movies and other form of entertainment but can be used for in-vehicle, revenue-generating services.
Earlier this year, Ford announced U.S. buyers would be able to order coffee from Starbucks and pizzas from Domino’s through Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant being built into the onboard telematics system. On Tuesday, rival General Motors announced the launch of its own GM Marketplace to offer an even broader array of services, including the ability to order food, find gas stations and even reserve hotel rooms.
“We’ve never seen change like we do today,” said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford. “Everything is being disrupted.”
(Is Ford ready to abandon struggling South American market? Click Here for the story.)