| DEARBORN, Mich.
DEARBORN, Mich. May 8 Automakers will race to
appeal to budget-conscious Chinese car buyers as the industry
expands beyond the wealthy coastal cities in the east, Ford
Motor Co's Asia chief said on Tuesday.
As they expand more heavily into central and western China,
automakers can appeal to price-sensitive consumers by offering
multiple vehicles within the same size segment at varying
prices, Jo e Hinrichs said.
"The growth expected the rest of this decade in China is
largely to come from the central and western parts of the
country which is more value-oriented," he told reporters at
Ford's headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.
"You'll need to serve those customers differently," he
Ford's plan to introduce 15 new vehicles in China by 2015
began with last month's launch of the new Focus. Hinrichs said
last month in Beijing that Ford plans to sell cars priced below
the Fiesta, currently their cheapest model in Asia with a price
ranging from $12,300 to $17,500.
Ford sales in China rose 24 percent in April to 54,881
vehicles, spurred by strong demand for the Focus.
Ford makes the Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo and other vehicles in
China in a three-way tie-up with Chongqing Automobile Co Ltd
and Japan's Mazda Motor Corp.
Hinrichs said Ford has to be patient as it awaits approval
from Chinese officials for the unwinding of Mazda from that
joint venture, called Changan Ford Mazda Automotive Ltd. He said
Ford expects the move to be approved, but did not predict when
that would occur.
He declined to say if the new venture would be a 50-50 split
with Chongqing. Currently, Chongqing owns 50 percent, Ford 35
percent and Mazda 15 percent of Changan.
In 2009, sales of autos in China grew by nearly 50 percent,
a growth rate that slowed to about 2.5 percent by 2011, when
18.5 million new vehicles were sold.
Ford expects new-vehicle sales to rise about 5 percent this
year and hit 30 million by 2020.
The highest expected growth is in the central and western
regions of China in part because of limits on the number of
driver's licenses allowed to be issued in the more established
markets in the eastern part of China, Ford has said.
Ford and its rivals must decide whether to compete with
low-cost models sold by local brands, Hinrichs said.
In China, the average passenger car is sold for about
$13,000 to $14,000. In India, that figure is about $7,000 to
$8,000. Ford competes in the lower-priced India market by
offering cars that have less content, including less technology
and less refined interiors.
He said if Ford enters some lower-end markets, it would not
dilute the Ford brand.
"I don't personally see any risk to the brand going more
downward in the market because that's where the growth is and in
Asia-Pacific, you've got to play there," Hinrichs said. "That's
where the volume is."
Hinrichs said the company's global platforms will make it
easier for the company to introduce cars priced below the
Fiesta. When the Fiesta was introduced, it allowed Ford to
expand its market shares throughout Asia-Pacific, he said.