Hans Greimel
Hans Greimel
Asia Editor, Tokyo

In 1 day, Ford blitzes China with 88 stores

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This must be some kind of record. It speaks to the rampant pace of business in China and the bounding aspirations of Ford Motor Co. there.

Over the span of just one day -- June 19 -- Ford opened 88 dealerships in the country, bringing its total to 750 outlets in the world’s biggest auto market.

The bulk of those stores are in the up-and-coming lower tier cities that will fuel future economic development and vehicle demand. About three-quarters of the outlets operated by its local joint venture, Changan Ford Automobile Co., are now in Tier 4 cities or smaller.

“With the growth momentum we have going right now, we expect to exceed 800 dealer points in China by the end of 2014,” said Marin Burela, president and CEO of Changan Ford.

The June 19 blitz was so important for the Detroit manufacturer that CEO Alan Mulally, who is set to leave Ford in less than three weeks, flew in to oversee the christening of one shop, the Shanghai Jiuhua West Dealership.

As a latecomer to China, Ford is expanding by leaps and bounds to become a top player. Its strategy hinges on stealing a lead in smaller cities primed for explosive growth and in areas such as the central and western parts of the country just starting to take off.

The obvious question: Can Ford balance quality service with breakneck expansion?

Just think of all the logistics that go into keeping a new dealership stocked with parts and the training needed for top-notch sales and service. Now roll that out to 88 stores all at once.

Naturally, Ford says it’s more than ready. Among other approaches, Changan Ford delivers technical training in partnership with 19 top vocational schools and universities across China through a “School to Work” program, the company noted.

Ford’s China sales soared 39 percent to 461,473 vehicles in the first five months of 2014.

Said Ford: “This rise in sales has both underlined the need for dealer network expansion and attracted new dealers to the Ford brand.”

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter

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