SHANGHAI -- Ford Motor Co. on Feb. 13 launched the newest version of its Mondeo sedan in China, offering a more luxurious interior than the standard model in Europe at a lower price than similar models in China.
"The 2004 Ford Mondeo gives Chinese consumers access to our global flagship car," said Ron Tyack, president of Changan Ford, the carmaker's joint venture in China. "To win Chinese customers, we must provide them with the best products in the world."
The sedan will initially be offered in two models. The 2.0-liter Ghia X will sell for 229,800 yuan, or $27,750 at current exchange rates, while the 2.0 L GLX sedan is priced at $25,340. A 2.5-liter version is due this year.
Changan Ford began producing the Mondeo last May and sold 4,000 units in 2003. It expects to sell 40,000 this year, said Changan Ford spokeperson Marina Guo.
The Mondeo's engine is imported from Valencia, Spain, and the transmission is imported from the United States, though the car meets the 40 percent local content requirement to qualify for the lower tax rate charged locally produced autos, Guo said.
To cater to Chinese tastes for a luxury interior, the China-made Ghia X has such standard features as leather seats, a sunroof and a six-disc CD player, Guo said. The cheaper GLX will not have as many standard luxury features.
The design also has been tweaked to suit Chinese tastes. The grille and hood are integrated, for example, and the chrome-plated grille is horizontal rather than vertical.
But it may take more than leather seats and vertical grilles to convince Chinese consumers that Ford is committed to the market here.
Ford entered the China market in January of 2002, later than most other foreign automakers, with the compact Fiesta. Though Ford claimed the model was the most up-to-date, the Chinese media lambasted Ford for not bringing its best car to China first.
Hoping to change that image, Ford pulled out all the stops for this Mondeo launch, flying local journalists to the south China tourism mecca of Guilin, an area known for its stunning mountain scenery, and staging a massive fireworks display.
Then, Ford announced the price for the Ghia X -- $1,800 below competitor Guangzhou Honda's Accord and $6,000 less than Shanghai GM's Buick Regal.
The price "really shocked the local media - they stood up and clapped," Guo said.