ANTING, China -- A few car owners sit in the waiting room at the Greenway Ford dealership in this Shanghai suburb. They are eating the ubiquitous takeout lunch called hefan, literally "box of rice." They're waiting while their cars are being serviced.
"I serve my customers lunch," Yemao Huang says proudly.
Huang is CEO of Greenway Asia LLC, the only American-owned Ford dealerships in China. Huang has two partners, Frank Rodriguez and Carl Atkinson, owners of the Greenway Automotive Group in Orlando, Fla.
The three partners operate four stores in China, and a fifth is under construction. But they had to endure a financial crisis to get this far.
Gut-check time arrived in 2006. Two years after their first dealership in China had opened, it still hadn't earned any money.
"We were getting a little bit concerned about whether our stomachs could handle it any longer," Rodriguez said in a phone interview from his flagship store in Orlando.
Rodriguez hung tough and was rewarded when Ford introduced the European Focus in China. "The Focus has really launched us," he said. "It's just had unbelievable success."