Ford automobiles destined for the Chinese market are being held up at ports, Reuters reports, citing three unnamed sources with knowledge on the matter. The vehicles, some of which are from Ford’s premium Lincoln brand, are reportedly being subjected to unusual delays, with one China-based Ford executive telling Reuters that Ford is being asked to perform extra checks on emissions-related components.
Many pundits have come to fear a trade war between the United States and China in recent weeks as US President Donald Trump has imposed tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum, threatening further action unless the country takes certain actions to make trade with the US more “fair.” The delays being faced by US-built Ford and Lincoln automobiles, along with many US-made BMW and Mercedes vehicles, could be China’s attempt to deliver a message of defiance to Washington.
“Customs pretends there are technical non-conformities of some nature that won’t allow them to clear these US-made cars through customs, but the US-China trade frictions must be the background to this,” one of Reuters‘ sources – an industry official based in China – said. “Although no one will officially admit it.”
General Motors isn’t as vulnerable to the slowdown at China’s ports, as the vast majority of its Chinese-market automobiles are built locally; the automaker plans to export just 150 vehicles from North America to China this year.
China has grown to become the world’s largest auto market, making it an important one for global automakers. Ford has been floundering in China of late, suffering declining sales even while the market continues to expand. The automaker shipped about 80k vehicles to China from North America last year, more than half of which were Lincolns. All of them were subject to China’s 25-percent import duty on American-made cars.