Ford Motor Company’s joint venture relationships in China are on the rocks as the automaker’s sales in the country continue to come up short, Reuters reports, citing unnamed sources at Ford, Changan Automobile Group, and Jiangling Motors Group. Ford is attempting to reverse its downward trajectory in China and regain the faith of its regional partners by preparing an onslaught of new products and localizing its regional management teams, according to Ford Asia-Pacific President Peter Fleet.
“I think our partnerships are in good shape, and I want them to be even better,” Fleet told Reuters in an interview, although he admits that “this year will be a bit like going through a tunnel. We have to get through 2018.”
This year might indeed be a trudge, as much of Ford’s decline in China has been blamed on a stale product portfolio, and the automaker isn’t expected to start really revamping its regional lineup until next year. But by 2025, Fleet says, Ford aims to boost revenue in the country by 50 percent compared to 2017, launching more than 50 new or revised products, including 15 electric vehicles.
Still, one of Reuters‘ sources – an official with Changan Automobile – cast the company’s relationship with Ford Motor Company as being strained. “At Changan-Ford, Ford often tries to intrude far into our territory; they’re interventionist and are most aggressive among global automakers at trying to have their say on how we run our day-to-day activities,” they said. “That makes our job sometimes difficult.”
Three of Reuters‘ sources said that morale among Ford’s China sales forces began to slip as a result of the automaker’s relationships with its joint venture partners – especially after Ford attempted to streamline distribution and consolidate its two brand identities in the country. But the American automaker is attempting to patch things up with its Chinese joint venture partners, collaborating more with Changan and JMC on new regional products and appointing more local employees to management positions.
Ford sales slid six percent through 2017, while the industry as a whole saw three-percent growth. Sales for this year through February were down 23 percent.