By Norihiko Shirouzu
BEIJING Oct 9 Ford Motor Co is poised to
overtake its Japanese rivals on the top seller's list in China
as Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co
struggle to regain market share following a flare-up in
anti-Japanese sentiment a year ago.
For much of the past decade, the Dearborn, Michigan-based
automaker has languished some way behind Japanese brands and
South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. And it has lagged a
long way behind General Motors Co and Volkswagen AG
That's mainly because of Ford's late foray into China and
the subsequent, conservative approach it has taken in an auto
market that became the world's biggest in 2009.
Ford is fighting to change that picture and appears likely
to sell more vehicles in China this year than two of its main
Japanese rivals - Toyota and Honda. Its China sales are also
zooming close to those of Nissan Motor Co.
Ford is likely to sell more than 900,000 vehicles, including
passenger cars and commercial vehicles, in China this year
thanks to its beefed-up product lineup, said a company official
who spoke on condition of anonymity. New in the showroom since
last year are a couple of small sport-utility vehicles and the
redesigned Focus car.
It has also just launched the redesigned Mondeo car, a China
version of the car marketed in North America as the Fusion.
The American automaker sold 647,849 vehicles during the
first nine months of the year, up 51 percent, Ford said in a
statement on Wednesday.
"We should be able to sell more than 900,000 vehicles,
possibly close to a million in China this year," the Ford
Toyota is targeting to sell about 900,000 vehicles and Honda
about 750,000 in China this year. China-based spokespeople at
the two firms said they were on track to meet those objectives.
Nissan is aiming to sell 1.25 million vehicles, but a Nissan
company executive speaking on condition of anonymity said last
month the company was "stretching to achieve" that goal.
The Japanese carmakers have, however, recorded a sharp rise
in year-on-year sales last month partly due to the low base from
last September, when Japan's decision to nationalize disputed
islands in the East China Sea sparked anti-Japan sentiment among
GM AND VW DOMINATE
Ford and the Japanese carmakers are still no match for the
likes of General Motors and Volkswagen.
GM Group expects to sell more than 3 million vehicles in
China this year. Its volume in China is forecast to grow 8 to 10
percent over last year, when the U.S. group sold a total of 2.84
According to consulting firm LMC Automotive, the Volkswagen
Group is forecast to sell about 3.2 million vehicles this year
in China, up from 2.8 million vehicles it sold in 2012.
LMC says Hyundai Group's sales in China this year should
reach 1.64 million vehicles, up from 1.4 million last year.
During the first nine months of this year, Toyota sold a
total of about 636,700 vehicles, down 0.5 percent from a year
earlier. Honda sold 497,261 vehicles, up 5.8 percent, while
Nissan sold 885,700 vehicles, up 0.2 percent.
Since Ford began an aggressive push to overhaul and beef up
its product lineup for China over the past two years, "sales
have been growing in leaps and bounds," said Yale Zhang, head of
Shanghai-based consulting firm Automotive Foresight.
That momentum should not only remain intact for the rest of
this year but should become "even stronger" next year and
beyond, Zhang said, adding that Ford expected to start
production at a major assembly plant in the eastern city of
Hangzhou around 2015.