* Ford China CEO says to focus on Ford brand for now
* Ford planning to expand presence in China
* More Chinese carmakers planning own brands
* Ford sees 5-10 pct China market growth this year (Adds comments from Ford China CEO)
By Chang-Ran Kim and Fang Yan
SHANGHAI, April 18 (Reuters) - Chongqing Changan Automobile Co Ltd , which has a three-way partnership with Ford Motor Co and Mazda Motor Corp in China, said on Monday that the joint venture is considering rolling out its own brand.
The comment from Changan Auto’s general manager, Zhang Baolin, comes as more Chinese automakers develop their own brands with help from their foreign partners after selling and making cars under the more well-known foreign badges in joint ventures that are legally required by Beijing.
Ford, for its part, is looking to expand its Blue Oval brand in China, where U.S. rival General Motors Co is far ahead, announcing plans on Monday to double its sales in China to around 5 million units by 2015, partly through the new Baojun brand in a collaboration with partner SAIC. [ID:nB9E7EV01Q]
Ford sold 582,500 vehicles in China in 2010.
“Right now we’re focused on the Ford brand here in China,” Joe Hinrichs, chief executive of Ford China and head of the U.S. automaker’s Asia-Pacific and Africa regions, told Reuters when asked about Ford’s plans for a joint venture brand.
“Of course we continue to explore the industry dynamics and the industry policies in China. We’re working with partners to do what’s best in the industry here and for the government and for our business as well,” he said after unveiling three electric and hybrid vehicles in Shanghai on the eve of the auto show.
Ford said last week it would bring 15 new vehicles, double its dealerships from 340 and add 1,200 new jobs in China by 2015. [ID:nL3E7FF0D0]
Hinrichs said he expected the Chinese auto market to grow 5 to 10 percent in 2011 from a year earlier, a pace he indicated was healthier than the breakneck speed over the past decade.
“In China we’re expecting 5-10 percent growth this year. For us it’s a sustainable level of growth, it’s predictable and we think it’s the right level of growth,” Hinrichs told Reuters.
The first of the 15 new models, the Focus, will go into production in 2012 at a planned $490 million factory in Chongqing with an initial capacity of 150,000 units.
Ford on Monday said it would bring a test fleet of electrified vehicles to China later this year, including the Fusion hybrid.
“With China aiming to go green on the road with new-energy vehicles, the country is the perfect platform to showcase Ford’s advanced technologies in the electrification plan,” Hinrichs said.
Partner Changan makes and sells Ford brands including the Focus, Fiesta, Mondeo in China under its partnership with Ford and Mazda. It also sells the Mazda 2 and Mazda 3. (Additional reporting by Jacqueline Wong; Editing by Chris Lewis and Matt Driskill)